Wednesday, 14 March 2018

Steam Submarine - a mysterious story about love.

The cryptic dedication to Steam Submarine begins thus: 

Every passing day
I think of thee
Submariner and Wolf Lady 
The one true hearted wolf I've ever known. 

It's a strange thing, I had to draw a line in the sand underneath this book, so to speak, to survive the traumatic events that occurred while I was writing it. I had to deprecate it to myself, so set those days behind me. 

And in a way I failed to appreciate what was good in Steam Submarine - for a while I couldn't even read it - the descriptions of loneliness and darkness seemed too all-encompassing. 

But it was the thought that someone else read it recently and enjoyed it that made me think there might be something to this book. 

You see, the thing about Steam Submarine is that it is quite philosophical. 

Steam Submarine contains in a novelistic, dramatic form everything I know about love, and about the two complementary and mysterious facets of human existence, male and female, and about sacrifice (for none of us can find fulfilment and peace and none of us can know what love is without ultimately accepting the sacrifice of another on our behalf, i.e. Jesus Christ). 

Steam Submarine follows hints too, about God and creation, given in the Bible.

You see the hidden principle of Wisdom is God's counterpart in creation and is personified as female in the Bible. It's one of the most mysterious sections of the Old Testament, in the book of Proverbs. This was what I tried to understand, to integrate into the love story between Zelf and Zev, in Steam Submarine.

I believe that this complementarity between God and Wisdom is the key to understanding Christ and the Church as the Bride and Bridegroom - the ultimate male and female archetypes of which every other love is an imperfect mirror - and this is the key to understanding human marriage and human eros i.e. romantic love as well. 

For human marriage is an image of the divine marriage between Christ and the Church. 

This is the great mystery of love at the heart of the universe and Steam Submarine more than any of my other books begins to hint at this.

Jane Austen never married, and yet wrote "Pride and Prejudice", the story of Elizabeth Bennet and Darcy, one of the greatest love stories in the English language. 

I have not married, yet wrote this love story, a rather different genre from "Pride and Prejudice" that's for sure! A sort of philosophical steampunk. 



Tuesday, 6 March 2018

Resources for Fantasy Writers

For writing fantasy, I've found that a broad and sometimes specific knowledge of ancient and medieval literature and history is helpful. While Google is very good for most things, I've found a few extra resources that you might find helpful too.

For some of my books (e.g. Cryptogryph The Da Vinci Machine) I have researched a very specific time in history, viz. 1851- 1853, and set the book in specific places, in this case, London, Venice and Leipzig. Also, Steam Submarine is set in London in the 1930s, and I did go to great lengths to make sure everything was legitimate, while of course changing some details to account for the book being set in a slightly different universe from ours.

Maps

For some particular resources, as I said, Google (or some other search engine) is essential, such as maps. There are an awful lot of historical maps online.

http://www.london1851.com has a great map of London in 1851.

The Perry Castaneda Map Collection has some great maps of the world:

http://www.lib.utexas.edu/maps/historical/history_world.html

Newspapers

Gale New Vault is a great resource, which contains newspapers going back to the 1600s.

http://gdc.gale.com/products/gale-newsvault

However it is not free. Many libraries can offer access to this resource, though.

In Australia you can apply for a library card for the National Library of Australia here, they send it out to you, it takes ?a couple of weeks from memory.

http://www.nla.gov.au/getalibrarycard/

And that gives you complete access to Gale News Vault and many other online resources:

http://www.nla.gov.au/app/eresources/index/

Books

A whole lot of old books are available at the Internet Archive as pdfs, it is usually the first place I will go to, to find a book older than 50-75 years. I found the catalogue for the 1851 Royal Exhibition here, and lots of other helpful books too:

https://archive.org

Ironically google searches it better than it searches itself, so put
<name of book> <name of author> site:archive.org
into google and you'll probably find it.

English Language

Of course for the etymology of a word, you just need to google it. But 9 times out of 10 the best information will be from this site, Etymology Online:

http://www.etymonline.com

Now to find out when in history a particular word was used, this is a brilliant tool:

https://books.google.com/ngrams

Literature

Reading books, looking at scans of books and documents from the old days can be a very rewarding activity in itself.

For Greek and Latin, including good translations and dictionaries and lexicons, Perseus Tufts:

http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/ 

Here is one brilliant resource for late medieval texts, the corpus of Middle English Prose and Verse:

http://quod.lib.umich.edu/c/cme/

An interesting one I just discovered. The Electronic Text Corpus of Sumerian Literature - this has translations of bundles of documents, too. Interesting not only for research for fantasy books, but also for context of the early part of the Old Testament if you're interested in that subject:
http://etcsl.orinst.ox.ac.uk






Sunday, 22 October 2017

Enubiant

Enubiant - (adj.) cloudy, covered as with clouds - from Latin nubes “cloud”. Example: The sky was enubiant with witches cascading through the clouds.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Dreams are peculiar. I sometimes get strange dreams, with peculiar, unknown words in them. Last night I dreamt of this word, "enubiant", which I am blogging about because (like the word dithingstump, meaning dishing stump, which I also dreamed and turned out to be probably a real Anglo Saxon word) "enubiant" turned out to have a credible etymology, at least, if it is certainly not a real word.

You see I dreamed I was writing the following phrase down on a piece of paper:

"The sky was enubiant with witches cascading through the clouds"

It kept going over and over in my head in the dream. In the dream I was sure 'enubiant' was a real word, that meant something like 'filled' only more intense, but when I woke up from the dream I wasn't sure any more that the word was real, so I wrote the phrase down so I could check in the morning.

Googling enubiant did not find that word, but with a few etymological searches of similar words I found the latin root, 'nubes'. Perhaps I read it somewhere, but I certainly don't remember doing so.

Interestingly, 'nebulous' is I believe from the same latin root.

Tuesday, 17 October 2017

How wonderful the Gospel is!

Rom. 3:21-24   But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, ithrough the redemption that is in Christ Jesus,

Sunday, 15 October 2017

Dragon Den! My new book available soon.

Marwe Dragon Den will be available soon on Amazon. Here is the cover:

An excerpt from the beginning of the book... 

Marwe hid in the shadows of a huge pillar-shaped stalagmite that stood beside her like a gnarled, watchful sentry. A jutting cliff curled over her, its reflection a disturbing shape in the pool of water beside her.
She didn’t look up.
What if the dragon looked back at her?
She moved her head and could see her reflection in the pool from a certain angle. A ragged looking, tall-for-her-age ten-or-eleven-or-twelve year old brown-skinned girl with large eyes, wearing a warm coat over pants and a shirt that were little more than rags, and no shoes looked back at her. She wiggled her toe and watched the ripples spread. The ground beneath her feet was hard, uneven stone, but she had never owned shoes, so her calloused soles hardly even noticed it - not like rich folk with their soft, sensitive feet - but she was just wasting time thinking about this stuff.
She peered into the cavern tentatively.
Was the dragon home?
No way of knowing. She couldn’t see any further than ten or fifteen feet.

Saturday, 30 September 2017

Passengers - What is love?

Many reviewers didn't like it. I liked it - it's a neat philosophical exploration of what real love is. In a way it's Beauty and the Beast in space.
Here's the thing - his hibernation pod has failed and he is lonely, so he wakes her up from hibernation, ending her chances of reaching the colony planet and fulfilling her ambitions of staying for a year then returning to Earth. The first third of the movie, after he wakes her up, waiting for the inevitable moment when it must be revealed to her that he woke her up and she didn't wake up by accident is excruciating. I found this part hard to bear, as their happiness at this stage was all based on a lie.
But the plot is very neat actually. Strangely enough the real love story follows in the last third of the movie. '
Spoiler alert - don't read on if you don't want to have a fairly broad idea of what the movie's about.
 - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
But at that point we find out what Passengers is really about: real love is demonstrated by sacrifice. How much someone sacrifices for another shows how much they love that person.
But then again, perhaps the plot is too neat - perhaps the opportunity to make the ultimate sacrifice is too available for both characters. It might imply love can only exist where both have made the ultimate sacrifice.
(The situation in real life is perhaps more complex, where one partner sometimes sacrifices more for the other.) (But this is what grace is from the human point of view - accepting the sacrifice another makes on your behalf graciously.) (From the divine point of view grace is making that sacrifice.) 

Passengers - and following the rules, or not.

I am watching Passengers, a movie about a man who wakes up from cryogenic sleep accidentally on an interstellar journey to colonize a new planet, half way through a journey that is taking 180 years. They are 90 years from their destination.
It is quite a philosophical movie, actually, and I'm a little more than half way through.
What is impressive about it is the perceptiveness of the film's depiction of AIs. There is an android barman who talks to him, telling him, "No one ever wakes up early in cryo sleep." But he says, "Then how come I'm here talking to you?" "You're right. It is impossible that you are here." Then continues talking to him, serving him, as if that's perfectly fine.
It is a perfectly accurate depiction of the way an AI would behave, for it is precisely this type of paradox that an automatic system is incapable of noticing.
This was Kurt Gödel's perception, actually, when he critiqued Russell's Principia Mathematica in the early 20th century (an attempt to define all mathematics completely); Gödel produced the Incompleteness Theorem, which points out that the paradoxical type of statement, "This statement is not true", cannot be excluded from any complete logical system.
This has a bearing on morals, actually. No system of logic or laws could ever totally describe moral human behaviour in every circumstance.
After a long time of living alone, with only machines for company and pointless activities to do, but no one to share them with, the space man in Passengers finds his loneliness crippling. It is then he has an agonizing decision to make - will he wake up someone else?
For at the end of the day, it is the fact that there is someone there, that makes all the difference. i.e. a machine loving you is not enough, because you know that it has been programmed to do this. A person's love is infinitely more valuable, because there is actually a person in there, making that decision, choosing to love.
Following the rules is never enough, because someone who followed all the rules would still just be a machine. It is love, eventually, that transcends rules, and is ultimately the only proof that we are human beings and not automata.
~~~an afterthought - this is why "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you" is the most powerful summary of morals - it puts at the centre the personhood of both people.


Thursday, 28 September 2017

The Red Pill, & Wonder Woman

Watched two movies today. First, let me say Wonder Woman was brilliant, really enjoyed it. It was a great realisation of the DC comics legend, complete with the god Aries being a character in the story.

Then I couldn't sleep tonight so I watched "The Red Pill - a Feminist's Journey Into The Men's Rights Movement", on Amazon where it is free. I was going to watch half of it then go to bed, but it was so gripping and moving that I kept watching till 2:30am!

Here it is on iTunes:

https://itunes.apple.com/au/movie/the-red-pill/id1195401070

It was also a brilliant movie, one of the best documentaries I have ever seen. The film-maker, Cassie Jaye, a feminist, decided to do a documentary on the Men's Rights Movement to see what makes these men (and women!) tick. She begins believing these activists to be misogynist, patriarchal, misguided, hate-filled. (Previously she had done movies about feminist issues, gay rights, etc etc)

But as the film progresses she changes her mind. How refreshing, actually, to see someone turn from outrage into compassion, to see someone open-minded enough to allow their own assumptions to be challenged! What is commendable is that she is simply concerned about truth, and willing to go where the truth leads. She checks all the statistics and puts the criticisms into context, it is really a very good documentary.

I think everyone should watch this movie. I would challenge anyone who thinks they are an unshakeable feminist to watch it and not find that it changes their views.

It really questions many of the assumptions our society holds. One excellent point the activists made was about language - a fireman has to be called a firefighter to prevent little girls from being daunted by the unjustly gendered label. But in feminism, the source of all good is called "feminism" (a word that basically means, female) and the source of all evil is "patriarchy" (a word that basically means, male) - so how come there are no gender implications for this type of language?

Unfortunately its not available on netflix which many people have: 


Here is where it is available: 


It’s a 2014 movie so may also be available in local video store. 



Wednesday, 27 September 2017

Thursday, 7 September 2017

Gotham

Brilliant TV show! They have done Batman really well. There is a dimension of depth to Bruce Wayne and Alfred's relationship.

Monday, 14 August 2017

Chronicles of Marwe.

Chronicles of Marwe is coming along, as are two or three other books that I'm readying for release. However another project has taken my attention for a short while, one completely unrelated to my books... 

But I'm quite pleased with where the Chronicles of Marwe is headed. Here's the cover, already created, for a book that isn't finished yet!  

Not sure whether to release the three books as one or separately. 

Tuesday, 1 August 2017

Love your Enemies. What about if you are your own worst enemy?

Jesus' beautiful words, quoted tonight at Mt Pleasant baptist church by John Dickson, apologist here:

“But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. To one who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also, and from one who takes away your cloak do not withhold your tunic either. Give to everyone who begs from you, and from one who takes away your goods do not demand them back. And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them."

“If you love those who love you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. And if you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to get back the same amount. But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful." Luke 6:27-36 English Standard Version (ESV)

The wonderful thing about these verses is that Jesus is telling us to do nothing more than He did Himself.

If one is one's own worst enemy, should one therefore love oneself? Yes, by receiving the forgiveness, grace, friendship of Jesus, Who is so gentle and kind and forgiving, that one might truthfully hope that by receiving from Him His friendship, then His Spirit, influencing and moving in our souls, might make us a little more like Him and more inclined to love those who hurt us and incline us to such gentleness ourselves.


Sunday, 30 July 2017

Ultima Thule prophecy.

Just had an email query from a reader asking about this prophecy about Ultima Thule in Steam Submarine into Ultima Thule, and where I got the idea from, whether from some Thule prophecy or ancient source or mystical text or other:

I thought my followers who read this blog might be interested in my reply, so I've reproduced it here:

Dear ----

Thankyou for your interest in my books!

No I did not use any source for this, although I sometimes do in my books. I can’t really say where the idea came from, but it may have come out of the following rather bizarre cogitations:

1) I projected forwards our current technology and the modern experience-oriented mindset, to the point where people might wish to join minds to have some sort of mental/emotional communion, a parody of Christian ideas of communion with Christ. I believe such a technology would end in the depersonalisation of massive numbers of people in an addictive mass experience, probably sexual/spiritual/drug-like in nature. Such a technology would be either genetic manipulation/biological of some sort or electronic through some sort of mind/machine interface, but of course in the case of the elves in my Ultima Thule they do it through ‘magic’, which works in that world, and such a mass-mind is the ultimate expression of their mastery of the world through magic, just as the scientists would say it is the ultimate expression of our science. (Both magic and science try to attain mastery over the world - it just so happens that science was successful at doing this in the past in our world and not magic)

2) I was also thinking that in the kingdom of hell, every individual demon or unfortunate person who becomes part of that kingdom ultimately loses their individuality and becomes an expression of Satan’s will and personality, and eventually their own personality or soul becomes more and more a chaotic mess, the left-behind bits of themselves. (See C.S.Lewis’ Perelandra for a rather chilling and I think unfortunately accurate depiction of this process, which I believe can really happen.) This is of course the danger of the occult - it sucks people in and drains them of their individuality, leaving them often mentally ill and spiritually bereft. The opposite of God, I might add, who asks people to consent to His rule over them, then gives them their individuality.

3) And I was also reflecting upon the fact that the world of advertising and mass media these days generally also offers people complete individuality through things they purchase (new car, ‘relationship’, money, fancy house, new TV, Coca Cola etc etc) which ultimately results in a slave mentality and loss of individuality because people become the slaves of whatever outside of themselves (for many, money or success) that they give themselves to (can be any other thing too, romantic love, another person, wisdom, knowledge, even family can enslave someone by becoming an ultimate goal), whereas in contrast Jesus Christ offers faith in Him and subjection to His kingship, which results in a person losing their lives to His reign in service to others, but finding their own complete individuality in Him.

4) Lastly I was wondering what it would take for a loving God to want to give up on a world, destroy that world and create a new heavens and a new earth, which is what happens a little later in that novel, and seems to be how our world will end, Biblically speaking. Ultimately I think something as sinister as that, a ‘mass-mind’ which destroys the souls of those who participate, would make God want to end things, to save the people who could be saved while they still could be.

5) Finally I guess I was probably influenced by thoughts about Star Trek universe’s ultimate enemy, the Borg, and many other sci-fi tropes along those lines. The difference is, I assumed that such a “mass mind” would only work if people entered it willingly, a devastating thought, actually.

So I’m sorry to say, I did not read anywhere in anything I read about Thule or the German Nazi mystical group or anything else about this ‘mass mind’ - it simply came from my own twisted imagination. But I would not be surprised, however, to discover that there was some basis in some text or other. My writing has often come up with such coincidences, for instance the title “Day of Dithingstump” of my latest published novel came to me in a dream, and only afterwards did I discover that a “Dithing Stump” seems to have been an actual word, an Anglo-Saxon blacksmith’s tool for making dishes and helmets.

So I don’t know where my ideas come from, but occasionally they do seem to have a slightly bizarre, coincidental resemblance to something in the real world.

If you do find such a prophecy or mystical writing, please send it to me! I will add it the list of weird things my writing has presaged.

Kind regards,

Robert Denethon.

Sunday, 9 July 2017

Self Publishing today

As you may or may not know, essentially my books are self-published. A lot of people have been asking me about this lately, and a few friends have asked for help with self-publishing, so I just thought I would put up a post about self-publishing with a few helpful links.

Smashwords
The first is Smashwords - Smashwords puts your ebook up on Apple iBooks, Barnes & Noble, Scribd, Oyster & Kobo:

https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/RobertDenethon

As an example, here are my books on the iBookstore, put there by Smashwords:
https://itunes.apple.com/au/author/robert-denethon/id909096568?mt=11

This is the most important document to read re Smashwords, the Style Guide written by Mark Coker, founder of Smashwords, because it tells you how to format Word files for smashwords:
https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/52

*Note Smashwords is pretty easy to use but the process of preparing a .doc file can be a little fiddly. Best thing to do sometimes is strip out all the formatting (on a Mac, paste it into TextEdit and select "Make Plain Text" then select it all and paste into a .doc file.) (Of course, it loses all bold and italics, which can be annoying, but sometimes it's the only way of getting rid of the unwanted formatting Smashwords doesn't like) 

Amazon
Next of course is Amazon. Through Amazon you can sell physical books and ebooks. Note that the physical books through kdp or Createspace are print on demand - means no up front cost, when someone orders a book Amazon prints one copy to send out to them there and then, and then takes a royalty out of what they were paid for the book and pays you.

https://www.amazon.com/Robert-Denethon/e/B00DEXJ8GM

To get your ebook onto Amazon you use Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing - you can put your ebooks onto Amazon through them, and physical books too now.
https://kdp.amazon.com/en_US/

This is  Createspace - for putting physical books on Amazon - actually kdp.amazon.com uses the exact same submission requirements for physical books (because Amazon bought Createspace about five years ago, and they are now migrating their system over to their own self-publishing section in kdp.amazon.com)
https://www.createspace.com

Here is how you create a Createspace and kdp cover template:
https://www.createspace.com/Help/Book/Artwork.do

This link on Createspace contains lots of other useful info, including the submission requirements for kdp and Createspace (pay especial attention to margins!) :
https://www.createspace.com/Products/Book/Index.jsp#content4

An afterthought - IngramSparks ~

BTW IngramSparks - they have a printing facility in Sydney so if you're in Australia you can get physical books delivered cheaper through them than Amazon, but it costs around US$49 to publish through them initially:

https://www.ingramspark.com

Thursday, 15 June 2017

Richard Feynman on Science

What is science? This video of Richard Feynman, the famous physicist, is particularly good:


Sunday, 11 June 2017

Book Review - Planet Narnia.

I am currently reading Planet Narnia by Michael Ward. I'm about a third the way through, but on the basis of the evidence presented so far I don't think anyone could doubt that CS Lewis secretly used the visible (medievally acknowledged) planets as the basis for the 'mood' and 'atmosphere' of each one of the Narnia books.

Here's just a sample of the wonderful, informative, probing writing. It's a small section about the Silver Chair, whose planet is the moon, Luna, which I found very useful in explaining some of the particular qualities of this particular (rather wonderful) book.

The Lunar Logos (Kindle location 3006) 

Luna presents Lewis with a peculiar problem apropos the communication of a theological message. Luna is different from the other six planets in that she borders the realm of mutability and to some extent shares its imperfections: 'the rim of the world that was waste goes through her. Half her orb is turned towards us and shares our curse.' This is a different problem from the one presented by the two infortunas, Mars and Saturn. Here, with Luna, Lewis has to express something 'about Christ' using a symbol that is not good per se (as all six translunary planets are) but partially corrupt. How can Aslan be depicted as the incarnation of such a spiritual symbol? 

The answer is by having him assume the good, upper half of Luna's qualities, and the opposite of the bad, lower half. We will address his assumption of the good, upper half later in this section; his assumption of the opposite of the lower half will be addressed straightaway. Rather than Aslan taking on Lunar doubt and insanity and so on, he is shown to be literally above all that, and to be opposed to it. As Como notes, 'Only in Aslan's country - where all harms are healed - are the highest claims, especially that of certainty, affirmed.' The lower half of the Luna world is not one that he can embody or in which he can appear in very truth, for the whole point of the lunary divide is that, below that line, very truth is not to be had. The only way Aslan can manifest himself in this realm of uncertainty is through the four Signs, delivered before certainty has been left behind, and in the brief revelatory dream that Jill has in chapter 8. 

What is marvellous about reading this book is that it hints at ways that a writer may achieve atmosphere in a book, through the most secretive means - this is what CS Lewis achieves - he never confessed to anyone this underlying means of unity in the Narnia books - & it is a great book to read if you love reading CS Lewis.

Wednesday, 31 May 2017

Case studies: Children and URVs in war zones.

I get the weirdest dreams sometimes. This dream presented itself in the case study form, with movie-like images. It was complete in the form you read it up to Case Study 4 which I finished afterwards and the short analysis section.
Case studies: Children and URVs in war zones. 

Case Study 1: a URV transports a child out of danger. 
A child is in a dangerous fire zone. The unmanned response vehicle identifies that the individual is a child and a non-combatant. Munitions are exploding all around. The unmanned response vehicle opens it’s door. In the child’s native language, in an inviting voice, it says, “Would you like a ride?” The child gets in the unmanned response vehicle and is transported out of immediate danger. 

Case Study 2: a URV refuses to transport a child out of danger in an unsafe context. 
A child is in a dangerous fire zone. The unmanned response vehicle identifies that the individual is a child and a non-combatant. Munitions are exploding all around, an extreme situation has developed in which the safety of the chid and the safety of the unmanned response vehicle are incompatible. In other words, the unmanned response vehicle identifies that it is unlikely it will be able to get the child away from the area safely without being destroyed. The child knocks on the door. The unmanned response vehicle refuses to open it’s door. In the child’s native language, in an inviting voice, it says, “Run! Run! I will shield you for as long as I can.” The child runs away and leaves the war zone, shielded by the unmanned response vehicle, just in time. The unmanned response vehicle is destroyed but the child is saved. 

Case Study 3: a child exploits the URV in the attempt to deliver an explosive to friendlies.
A child is in a dangerous fire zone. The unmanned response vehicle identifies that the individual is a child and apparently a non-combatant. Munitions are exploding all around. The unmanned response vehicle opens it’s door. In the child’s native language, in an inviting voice, it says, “Would you like a ride?” The child gets in the unmanned response vehicle and is transported out of immediate danger. The child leaves behind a package. The unmanned response vehicle identifies explosives and returns a quickly as possible to the enemy combatant base. The explosives intended for friendlies are delivered to the enemy. 

Case Study 4: a child attempts to exploit the URV in a suicide capacity. 
A child is in a dangerous fire zone. The unmanned response vehicle identifies that the individual is a child and apparently a non-combatant. Munitions are exploding all around. The unmanned response vehicle opens it’s door. In the child’s native language, in an inviting voice, it says, “Would you like a ride?” The child gets in the unmanned response vehicle. The unmanned response vehicle identifies explosives. Analysis is conducted and a suicide vest is suspected. The unmanned response vehicle travels behind enemy lines and into the centre of the enemy town. In this case, sadly, the child detonated the device. No harm was done to any friendlies, and the only casualty apart from the child was the unmanned response vehicle itself. 

Analysis.
These case studies, while merely anecdotal and containing no quantitative data, indicate that even in the more problematic instances the unmanned response vehicles are managing to negotiate the moral intricacies of dealing with childrens’ presence in war zones, in some ways more creatively than human soldiers might have done, balancing the principle of lesser of two evils and the idea of not doing any harm. This study does not, of course, deal with the wider contextual issue of how the very presence of unmanned response vehicles in an area might endanger the children a priori, however that question is outside of the scope of this report and must be considered a strategic/tactical question rather than one arising in the day to day programming context. 



Wednesday, 24 May 2017

C S Lewis and a Fox Hunt

C S Lewis was fond of concealing things at times, apparently, for instance the planetary basis of the Narnia series - each book represents symbolically one of the seven medieval planets, i.e. the ones visible to the naked eye.

In the introductory section of the book Planet Narnia, where Michael Ward is demonstrating that concealment, while not necessarily a defining characteristic of C S Lewis' character, was something he sometimes practiced, the discoverer of this surprising allegorical underpinning of the Narnia series Michael Ward points out an instance of C S Lewis telling a lie.

Apparently there was a fox hunt and C S Lewis deliberately misled them:

'He cupped his hands and shouted to the first riders, "Hallo, yoicks, gone that way," and pointed to the direction opposite to the one the fox had taken. The whole hunt followed his directions.'

A rather endearing lie, if you ask me.

Saturday, 11 March 2017

The Chinese character for Wolf 狼.

Chinese characters actually are little pictures, joined together, each part has a meaning.

The chinese character for wolf is quite evocative:

Is is composed of three radicals (parts) 
犭dog or beast
丶dot
艮 stillness

A wolf is a dog or creature that you see like a dot in the distance, in stillness.






Up to date.

Currently I'm working on quite a few different projects - several non-fantasy books that I will probably publish under a different name, the genre is thriller, perhaps Christian thriller, actually.

Also, the Chronicles of Marwe, a story about a young homeless girl set in the same world as my first three novels, the Gryphonomicon Histories.

Also, the audiobook of the Henry Lawson books is being edited as well at the moment.

Should have more news soon.



Wednesday, 11 January 2017

Rogue One .

What a brilliant movie! 5 stars.

At last a sequel has captured the magic of episodes 4, 5 and 6, which were of course the first Star Wars movies to be made.

Apart from the ever-more-wonderful special effects, appealing characters and sporadic humour (the droid is specifically quite funny in places) there is something in this movie that one often finds lacking in many of today's cynical entertainments, where every character is corrupt and damaged and 'in it for themselves'; in Rogue One there is a real take home message about redemption, what goodness and hope really mean and what it is to be part of something larger than oneself.

A truly positive movie that celebrates hope and the meaning of true heroism.

Wednesday, 4 January 2017

With God Is The One Safe Place.

It's just something I was thinking about. With God is the one safe place.

Quite a few passages in the Bible say this. (a sampling below)

Also, (at the bottom of the article) Charles Slack about God's cure for depression. Might be good to read for anyone going through depression.

Some Bible verses about Safety: 

The Lord is my light and my salvation -
whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the stronghold of my life -
of whom shall I be afraid?
Psalm 27:1 

Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.
Deuteronomy 31:6

But the Lord is faithful, and he will strengthen you and protect you from the evil one.
2 Thessalonians 3:3 

Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High
will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress,
my God, in whom I trust.”
Psalm 91:1-2    
                                                                                                                                               
You are my hiding place;
you will protect me from trouble
and surround me with songs of deliverance.
Psalm 32:7                              
                                                                                                                        
God is our refuge and strength,
an ever-present help in trouble.
Psalm 46:1  
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           
In peace I will lie down and sleep,
for you alone, Lord,
make me dwell in safety.
Psalm 4:8                                                                                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                                   
You will keep in perfect peace
those whose minds are steadfast,
because they trust in you.
Isaiah 26:3        
                                                                                                                                                                                 
The Lord is good,
a refuge in times of trouble.
He cares for those who trust in him.
Nahum 1:7        
                                                                                                                                              
It is better to take refuge in the Lord
than to trust in humans.
Psalm 118:8      
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           
Sing to God, sing in praise of his name,
extol him who rides on the clouds;
rejoice before him — his name is the Lord.
A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows,
is God in his holy dwelling.
Psalm 68:4-5    
                                                                                                                                             
Truly he is my rock and my salvation;
he is my fortress, I will never be shaken.
Psalm 62:2   
                                                                                                                                                     
The Lord is a refuge for the oppressed,
a stronghold in times of trouble.
Psalm 9:9                                                                              


http://cross-connect.net.au/how-god-heals-depression-when-you-cant/                                                                        

Monday, 2 January 2017

God Comforts.

Good 1st January sermon from Dale Appleby at St Mark's Bassendean

http://www.daleappleby.net/index.php/mp3-sermons/68-christmas-and-epiphany-sermons/759-luke-2-21-32-simeon-god-comforts

Note (added just after posting) what this sermon is saying is that Jesus' presence is safety and comfort.

Saturday, 31 December 2016

How To Get Out of a Dark Hole.

Just read a pretty good book - Bill Myers' The Dark Side of the Supernatural. 

Here's the link to the Australian kindle store if that's where you buy stuff.

Very good to read to understand what is of God, and what isn't, in the supernatural world.

Something I'm thinking about at the moment - how can people get out of the dark holes they get themselves into? (Despair, depression, mental illness, etc, etc)

Only one way I know of - Jesus Christ.

He is the Light of the World.

Anyone who asks Him for help, guidance, light in their life, will find the help they need.

It's really that simple.




Saturday, 24 December 2016

How Postmodernism Becomes A Tool For Maintaining the Status Quo.

When a postmodernist examines an article or opinion the first question he asks is, "Who wrote this? Whose opinion is it?" Following this, the postmodernist says to himself, "What position are they coming from? Why do they take this position?"

"Oh," s/he says to her/himself, "This person has a vested interest."

This then becomes a reason for being suspicious of the person's reasoning. The vested interest, prior position (Christian, white male, being middle class, working for the oil industry once, etc etc) delegitimises that person's argument, before they have even said anything.

When people believed that it was possible to argue about things rationally in a free society, this would have been called an 'ad hominem attack,' one of the standard logical fallacies. 'Ad hominem', 'against the man' in latin, means to argue that a person's position is wrong because of the person. To be logical one must argue against the logic of what they are saying, rather than who they are or what group they come from.

What this kind of postmodernist rhetoric does (in the name of truth) is makes democracy impossible: if you can't argue a point from logic agreeing that the other person might be just as right as you are, if you are saying, "this person cannot be logical because they are a member of a particular social group" - then you may as well stand there singing 'la la la la' with your hands in your ears as have a conversation where you try to get at truth, or an argument where you try to convince others (i.e. democracy) if you have already decided that whatever they say is influenced by their 'vested interest' and is therefore not worth listening to.

Thursday, 22 December 2016

The Turing Test.

A follow on from my previous post...

The Turing Test is a test invented by the mathematician Alan Turing in a paper published in 1950 in Mind. He is approaching the question, "Can Machines Think?"

Here is an excerpt from this paper:

1. The Imitation Game
I propose to consider the question, "Can machines think?" This should begin with definitions of the meaning of the terms "machine" and "think." The definitions might be framed so as to reflect so far as possible the normal use of the words, but this attitude is dangerous, If the meaning of the words "machine" and "think" are to be found by examining how they are commonly used it is difficult to escape the conclusion that the meaning and the answer to the question, "Can machines think?" is to be sought in a statistical survey such as a Gallup poll. But this is absurd. Instead of attempting such a definition I shall replace the question by another, which is closely related to it and is expressed in relatively unambiguous words.

The new form of the problem can be described in terms of a game which we call the 'imitation game." It is played with three people, a man (A), a woman (B), and an interrogator (C) who may be of either sex. The interrogator stays in a room apart front the other two. The object of the game for the interrogator is to determine which of the other two is the man and which is the woman. He knows them by labels X and Y, and at the end of the game he says either "X is A and Y is B" or "X is B and Y is A." The interrogator is allowed to put questions to A and B thus:

C: Will X please tell me the length of his or her hair?

Now suppose X is actually A, then A must answer. It is A's object in the game to try and cause C to make the wrong identification. His answer might therefore be:

"My hair is shingled, and the longest strands are about nine inches long."

In order that tones of voice may not help the interrogator the answers should be written, or better still, typewritten. The ideal arrangement is to have a teleprinter communicating between the two rooms. Alternatively the question and answers can be repeated by an intermediary. The object of the game for the third player (B) is to help the interrogator. The best strategy for her is probably to give truthful answers. She can add such things as "I am the woman, don't listen to him!" to her answers, but it will avail nothing as the man can make similar remarks.

We now ask the question, "What will happen when a machine takes the part of A in this game?" Will the interrogator decide wrongly as often when the game is played like this as he does when the game is played between a man and a woman? These questions replace our original, "Can machines think?"

He replaces this question with another question, "Can a machine fool a human into thinking the machine is conscious?"

The real question which most of these fictional stories about AIs answer in the affirmative, is, "Can a machine be created which actually is conscious?"

In fact, it is very hard to prove consciousness. No one really knows what it is. The only person one can be completely certain is conscious is oneself, when one is conscious. Believing others are conscious is actually an act of faith, in a sense.

The philosopher Alvin Plantinga in his book God and Other Minds 1967 proposed that belief in God was analogous to belief in other minds, both being apparent from evidence and fundamentally rational beliefs, but that neither belief in God nor belief in other minds could be conclusively proven against a determined sceptic.

Since we do not really know what consciousness is, how can we ever create it in a machine?

In other words, the Turing Test can never prove consciousness (Turing never claimed it could) it can only prove that a machine can be created that can imitate consciousness.




Tuesday, 20 December 2016

Robots, AI, and what consciousness is.

I've been watching HUMᗄNS, a BBC show, and also Westworld, on iTunes. Both are about AI androids who start exhibiting human characteristics. But the central premise on which these shows are based, that a machine that appears to be human actually is, is not really explained - it is simply assumed. The central premise is that same miracle in the Golem myth - that somehow a robot/machine/lump of clay can be given human/divine breath and made to live.

It started me thinking - the central characteristic of a human being is self-consciousness - I realised a long time ago that Descartes' fundamental basis for all of his philosophy of a Clockmaker universe, "I think therefore I am", is actually illusory - "I am" is the more fundamental realisation. That this realisation is possible for us is explained in Talmudic and Biblical teaching by God having breathed His life, a portion of His spirit (breath and spirit being the same word in Hebrew, neshamah) into us. In ontological terms, it follows, "I am, therefore I think". (i.e. The fact that I am is what causes me to be able to think)

A computer in its own way 'thinks' - the circuits bleep over and create a certain pattern - but the meaning of that pattern only becomes apparent to a human being. In fact, the meaning of any pattern requires a conscious being to see it, for it to have meaning. In other words, the genetic code is only the mechanics of a machine that orders the process that creates the body, but it must have been designed, because it is a construct involving symbolic meaning. i.e. it is a code - but strangely enough, the only living creatures who can see that it is a code are human beings (or other sentient beings, angels, God, aliens perhaps). The bacteria who benefits from this vastly clever piece of engineering cannot see that the DNA through which it comes into existence is a symbolic representation of the creature that comes into existence. (This awareness of symbolic pattern, by the way, is another aspect of self-awareness - the ability to discern the difference between signifier and signified - something post-modernism minimises by destroying that difference, being a system that attempts to treat human consciousness as analogous to a computer in an endless goto loop - which is precisely what consciousness is not. The Incompleteness Theorem of Kurt Gödel demonstrates that ultimately it takes a human being to discern when a theorem is self-referential, i.e., in an endless goto loop. Similarly, despite programmers putting in super-programs called daemons to monitor the program while it is running, and daemons to monitor the daemons, they still can't stop the computer from crashing from time to time, getting itself into an endless loop. You see, a machine is only a machine, but the Spirit of God is the Spirit of Truth. )

There are already dolls that talk to children, mobile phone 'personalities' (Siri), games that can hold conversations with us, and these can be programmed to have apparent feelings. I am sure Google eventually will become very good at extrapolating normal human emotions from the massive amounts of data they have collected about people - perhaps to the degree that they can eventually create an AI machine that can realistic imitate a human, and fool many people into thinking it is alive and conscious.

But if there is no centre to that creation, no part of it that can honestly say, "I am", then despite its apparent 'feeling', 'thought', even despite the fact that it might appear to have self-awareness, if there is no real self-consciousness, no divine spirit, then it is still nothing more than an artificial machine imitating human behaviour, something electronic, certainly, that really could just as well be made of cogs and wheels. We don't have to worry about offending it, hurting it, breaking it, sinning against it, except to the degree that we might be hurting its owners or ourselves by doing such things, just the same as any other machine. (Stealing a car is wrong, not because the car has feelings and sentience, but because the owner does. )

It seems to me that self-consciousness is spiritual, an effect of having a spirit. It is an exceptional thing for an animal to be able to recognise itself in a mirror. It is a normal thing for a human to be able to do so. Having feelings also, i.e. a soul, (nefesh) is a miracle in itself - only certain animals have this almost to a human degree - the higher mammals. But self-consciousness is uniquely human.

Some people, who insist that we are nothing more than machines ourselves, would say that the existence of self-awareness is an illusion. But the fact is, the grammar of their own statement shows how ludicrous this statement is: for there must be someone having an illusion, for it to be an illusion. If there is no self, if we are machines just as much as a computer is, then there can be no illusion at all, because there is no real person at the centre of it all who can be deceived.

I think self-consciousness in AIs is a problem that is insoluble to science. I really don't believe a human being can create another self-conscious being except through the usual methods (a sperm and an egg).

(In Henry Lawson Hero of the Robot Revolution, (*spoiler alert this paragraph*) of course, I solved the problem of the soul and spirit in AI machines in the narrative by giving them a soul, a spirit, that has been transferred from a human by some unexplained and drastically inhuman process. This is the only way I believe that AIs could be truly conscious, if a spirit could be transferred somehow from one vessel to the other. This in itself is a scary thought and is the main source of the horror in my novel, for anyone who has read it.)

In these shows (HUMᗄNS, Westworld, etc) the terrible thing that happens is that these AIs whom anyone with any human feeling can see are conscious, are being treated as impersonal machines, and they are fighting back. If this was possible it would indeed be terrible. It is the premise of many, many science fiction stories, from Frankenstein to Rossum's Universal Robots, to Blade Runner.

But no one yet has shown that it is possible to create a conscious machine, and no one yet has even shown us what consciousness is. A machine may be able to be created that can feign consciousness, but until this mystery can be solved (which I believe it cannot, precisely because self-consciousness is one aspect of the divine image in us, perhaps the main aspect, and this is a mystery) - until this mystery can be solved, we will never have to worry about offending, hurting, sinning against the machines in our lives. No, we should worry far more about hurting our fellow humans, and the other living creatures in our lives - a dog, after all, while not self-aware, does have genuine feelings (Nefesh) but a computer never will.



Friday, 9 December 2016

'Tis the Season to Consider the Checkout Staff.

Checkout Lady: I'm sorry you've been waiting.
Man at checkout: Don't worry! We all know that it's not your fault if there's congestion.
Checkout Lady: Well you're one in a million.
Man at checkout: We know it's those b*st*rds in Sydney in the head office in their Mercedes Benz's who're always cutting corners, not the checkout staff causing this problem.
Checkout Lady: Well, thank you for that! I've been working for fourteen hours and haven't even had lunch - I had one minute for my lunch break and didn't have time to eat anything. How's that for dedication? And I've got to supervise the stacking of the shelves, but I simply haven't had time because we're short staffed.
Man at checkout: Well that's okay, the main thing is you're doing your best and we all appreciate it.
Checkout Lady: You should be cloned!