Saturday, July 13, 2013

The Robots of Fractal Standard Time

There are a lot of robots in Fractal Standard Time. In fact, there will be several generations of them, including the lawn-mowing "turtles" of The Mathematician's Lawn, the mining robots of Earthset, and a next generation machine that takes on more of an enforcement role in addition to mining duties. Each generation builds on the previous one's capabilities. To give some idea of the visuals involved with these machines, here is a picture and an article which inspired me...the Moai statues of Easter Island and the Kuratas robot built by the Japanese company Suidobashi Heavy Industry.

Without giving too much away, towards the end of the book, the final generation of machines gets upstaged by something even bigger. This theme is being built upon in the subsequent novels I am working on, Ionotatron and Chronopticus Rising. Ionotatron will feature an even larger machine which will wreak havoc on the settlements.

The goal, however, is to attempt to depict the true nature of technological progress in both size and capability. This is no easy task since technology evolves and changes so quickly nowadays and what may seem like a great idea in fiction at the time may end up never panning out or run the risk of becoming dated if technology takes a sudden turn in a different direction.

One of the complaints leveled against science fiction over the years is that when a new, innovative technology is introduced in a book, other aspects of society seem stagnant, or even the technology itself becomes stagnant. Then again, it is difficult to foresee all the possible impacts of a technology or how it will be used (or abused). For example, imagine a story about a town in the late 1800's and giving a character a ray gun to use in a shootout. How could such technology exist with a supporting infrastructure somewhere? Why wouldn't anyone else have the device? Is it the product of a lone inventor's lab or an alien artifact? Wouldn't this be a game-changer in the hands of villain? Answering these types of questions, however, and at least attempting to predict where a disruptive technology will go creates more realistic novels...if it is done right.

Although the robots run the risk of being the central focus of the Fractal Standard Time, the real heroes/villains come out of a family of mathematicians by the name of Entner. Several generations are depicted in the book, and their offspring will appear in the following novels. And yes, to play off the title and the math there, there will be plenty of fractals to be found...if you know where to look. More on this later.

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