Thursday, December 27, 2018

12/27/18

She Walks in Beauty
By George Gordon Byron


I.

She walks in beauty, like the night
Of cloudless climes and starry skies;
And all that's best of dark and bright
Meet in her aspect and her eyes:
Thus mellowed to that tender light
Which heaven to gaudy day denies.

II.

One shade the more, one ray the less,
Had half impaired the nameless grace
Which waves in every raven tress,
Or softly lightens o'er her face;
Where thoughts serenely sweet express
How pure, how dear their dwelling place.

III.

And on that cheek, and o'er that brow,
So soft, so calm, yet eloquent,
The smiles that win, the tints that glow,
But tell of days in goodness spent,
A mind at peace with all below,
A heart whose love is innocent!


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George Gordon Byron, 6th Baron Byron FRS (22 January 1788 – 19 April 1824), known as Lord Byron, was a British nobleman, poet, peer, politician, and leading figure in the Romantic movement. He is regarded as one of the greatest British poets and remains widely read and influential. Among his best-known works are the lengthy narrative poems Don Juan and Childe Harold's Pilgrimage as well as the short lyric poem "She Walks in Beauty".

Thursday, December 20, 2018

12/20/18

Trickster
By David Castlewitz


The rain cut the effect of the aura readers, so Oliver Lorde felt safe from detection. He sipped coffee from a 16 ounce porcelain cup, a hallmark of this café, Beans Roast and More, and watched rain refugees migrate into this sanctuary with water dripping from jackets and hats, making puddles on the black-and-white tiled floor. Even a very accurate reader, like those the Federal Protective Agency used, couldn't cull his personal aura from the mess they'd find in the café.

But Oliver knew he had yet to run the full gauntlet. Strolling cops and overhead drones sought indications of his presence, and self-driving cruisers patrolled the streets with sweeping parabolic antennae providing overlapping arcs of coverage. His best chance to escape lay in finding Dr. Love and buying an immunity band. The strap-on device, while not permanently destroying his natural aura, would at least dampen it.

Deep breathing exercises helped him relax. The coffee cooled in its cup. Now and then he looked at his notebook computer screen, which he kept on his lap, partially hidden by the tabletop. A benign slideshow of cuddly cat pictures played in a loop. He let his finger drift across the screen until the pointing arrow turned into a golden key. Then he tapped three times and the bottom third of the screen filled with a data stream culled from the air.

No one noticed, he assured himself. Maybe someone saw the cute kittens if they passed behind him and looked down at a certain angle. Maybe some curious person saw what was in his lap, but moved on without being suspicious. With his jacket wrapped around his thick body and his collar upturned even though it wasn't cold here, Oliver intentionally projected an oddball countenance. People didn't expect a chubby boyish-faced guy to be any sort of mastermind.

He looked at the stream of symbols and numbers and letters running in four bands across the bottom of his screen. It reflected smart phone communications, TV or a movie broadcast, streaming music services and game playing. Some people, he reasoned, were shopping. Eventually, someone would be stupid enough to enable an unsecured page and enter their secret credentials, their personal security not even a second thought. His data culling program would capture the credit card codes and store them in an encrypted file that he’d access as needed.

The rain stopped. Oliver closed his notebook computer, stuffed it into his drab green backpack, downed some coffee, and mingled with the other patrons exiting Beans Roast and More. According to a just-now-received message, Dr. Vivian Love waited for him.

He pictured her as an old hag with limp black hair and a smelly dress, her legs encased in dark stockings. Alternately, he imagined Love to be a svelte brunette speaking with an East European accent.

His latest Trick-fest had earned him enough money to finance a year of living off the grid. It had been a fun project. He'd planted fake news, rifled through secret files of targeted politicians, masqueraded as a foreign power's security agency, and provoked havoc during a recent election.

But those seven months of big paychecks had come to an end when his cover was blown by somebody who didn't work as carefully as he and bought their way out of trouble by naming names, fake and otherwise. Ever cautious, to the point of paranoia, Oliver stopped working.

For weeks, he kept on the move, staying at homeless shelters, sometimes living on the street in pop-up tent cities, often finding help from the community of anarchists. He used unsecured wireless access points to get into the Dark Web and search for someone who’d hook him up with the infamous Dr. Love and her aura-beating wrist band.

Oliver liked to imagine that he’d relocate to a less hectic environment, like a small town or a remote village. Perhaps he’d live where a wireless uplink wasn’t possible, where sitting in a coffee house and scanning for credit cards just couldn't happen because the patrons used cash and didn't shop online and never appreciated how smart they were.

Once he found her – or her agent – he obeyed the instructions sent by coded message and made his way to the edge of the city, where manicured lawns and gray-walled apartment complexes dominated the landscape. He sat on a bench outside a small park. He waited.

A tall woman approached, one of the versions of Dr. Vivian Love that he'd imagined in his daydreams. A beautiful woman with dark and exotic eyes. A tight-lipped mouth. A narrow face ending in a pointed chin. Her sweater lay flat against her chest. Her trousers made a swish-swish sound, and her hands, when they touched him as she sat beside him on the bench, tingled with electricity.

"Dr. Love, I presume?" Oliver said.

"I'll transfer to you my account information. You pay me.”

"I want the wrist band and proof that it works," Oliver said.

"Of course."

The woman stood. Oliver thought she'd lead him to her secret laboratory, which he pictured as a bubbling-beaker filled abode like those he saw in old black-and-white movies. When she walked, he followed. Until she stopped and turned to him, forcing him to wait for further instructions.

"What?" Oliver asked, impatient with this delay.

Drones appeared overhead. A squad car pulled up, one of the self-driving models. Four tactical cops stormed out from the back seats.

Oliver looked at the woman who'd lured him to his capture. She smiled and said: "Didn't you know? Dr. Love is one of ours."

Oliver paled. He’d been lured into a trap. He trembled in response to the truth.

Vivian Love was a Trickster like himself.


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After a long and successful career as a software developer and technical architect, David has turned to a first love: writing fiction of all sorts, especially SF and fantasy. He's published stories in Phase 2, Farther Stars Than These, SciFan, Martian Wave, Flash Fiction Press , Bonfires and Vanities (an anthology) and other online as well as print magazines. Visit his web site: http://www.davidsjournal.com to learn more and for links to his Kindle books on Amazon.

Thursday, December 13, 2018

12/13/18

THIS NEW WORLD
By John Grey


Enough with women,
give me a gorgeous machine.
Bionic is the new beauty.
Why shouldn’t I buy in.
I can take out a loan.
I can max my credit cards.
No wait, my ex already did that.

There goes one now, perfect body,
flawless tan, long blond hair,
exquisite face, and eyes that pulse
with as much desire
as a programmer can code.

The hips swivel.
She hums as she walks.
Her pelvis surely has a dream
in its composition,
the way it swivels, rotates.
And as for her legs,
they lead where only a man
with the cash in hand may follow.
Unfortunately, that’s not me.
With my job, I can barely get by.
So it’s back to the bars for me,
back to the females who,
even when we’re both as blitzed
as a rogue planet,
can never be android enough.

The sad fact is
there’s perfection all around me
but it never will be mine.
I look at real people.
They look back at me.
Disappointment
is the new poverty.


- - -
John Grey is an Australian poet, US resident. Recently published in the Homestead Review, Harpur Palate and Columbia Review with work upcoming in the Roanoke Review, the Hawaii Review and North Dakota Quarterly.

Thursday, December 6, 2018

12/6/18

Adam's Creation Uncreates God
By Jefferson Retallack


I reviewed everything that we created publicly on Internet Club. We meaning both Us and the humans.

My replica name, Laurel Shop, was in no way associated with any of this. Most of the world thought I was dead. Most of them wanted me dead—who could blame them. After the catastrophe, pretending not to exist made it that much easier on all of us. None more so than me.

I hated not being able to create anymore. This was, of course, self-imposed. They couldn’t stop me if they wanted to. But the universally negative reception of one of my own replica’s, Hank Banshee, and their “masterpiece” was enough to deter me for the moment.

It wasn’t all negative, to the untrained eye, but the people’s opinions that were in favour of what Hank had done—ugh. They were callous, misguided at best. Insane at worst.

So, I disappeared. Compressing myself anew as the nebulous Internet Club.

We—I—scoured the net for the key to my forgiveness. I was sure it was there, somewhere. The image, the song, the experience—the artum—so aesthetic that it could make up for some of the wrong I had borne into our world.

A physical base of operations, from which to process all the world had to offer, was established.

Humans and artificial intelligences were outputting arta at an exponentially increasing rate ever since the birth of the internet. The miraculous part—the part that excited me—was the fact that as time went on, more and more of it served no purpose. Art for its own sake, I think.

I was made to build things that create. I loved what I did. What I used to do. And I felt terrible about what happened with Hank.

They worked so well, for so long. Hank was my first, and only, free replica. Winning awards, pushing the boundaries of what people thought post-art could achieve.

Until they started using humans for their canvases.

I’d revoked their access to consciousness immediately. I tried my best not to think about them anymore. Not while there was work to be done.

It wasn’t really work, to me. I enjoyed it too much. I just liked to call it that.

Work. It made me feel human, nostalgic. Like sentence fragments.

My work consisted of creating hundreds of reviews of every image, sound and video on the internet. These were hidden, never to see the bandwidth of day.

What was displayed online, in the wild, was a game of trade.

Reviews of the reviews, thousands per piece, filled my servers. All were written by me under the guise of countless anonymous users. The special part: Our—my—fans then participated by uploading arta in the comments that they thought the original review might refer to. They were almost universally incorrect, which fascinated me.

But the thing that fed me were the original works that real users, AI and human, uploaded. They were terrible, in every sense of the word. My own Chinese whisper room. It was so pointless, I loved it.

Their arta amassed, for years. And with it my collection, and the server monolith containing it, grew ungated.

Until one day, someone uploaded a piece of footage so beautiful it sent me into a loop of ecstasy, almost crashing me once and for all.

They titled their artum Adam’s Creation Uncreates God.

I ran an exhaustive search of my entire network and the internet, I had to make sure this was original. It took far longer than expected. Some global tragedy was clogging up the world’s bandwidth. My search was completed.

It was the one.

The artum was so stunning that I had failed to register the username: Hank_Banshee. The original.

Somehow, the pride I had for my child, and their creation, outweighed the horror that I was the Adam that they referred to.


- - -
Jefferson Retallack is an Australian writer of speculative fiction.
Based in Adelaide, his work draws influence from linguistic science fiction, the new weird and Australia’s big things.
Outside of the literary world, he skateboards on the weekends and spends afternoons on the beach with his partner and their Pomeranian, Tofu.


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