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PeterD Posted - 01/27/2006 : 09:30:57
Proteus was written with the idea that evolution, as a process, has certain built-in limitations. We know, by looking at the physiology of the brain, that nature doesn’t start fresh with each new modification. Just as we can see a physical history of the atmosphere on Earth from ice-cores, we can also see the development of the brain from its various structures—the brain stem from something we might find in a reptile, to the neo-cortex, which is only found in mammals, and is most highly developed in humans. The neo-cortex is the seat of language and conscious thought.

In Proteus, we imagine a new trek for evolution that uses the base form, the human prototype, as a sort of bootstrap stage in the (natural) development of intellect. And who knows, maybe it’s true!

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specfiction Posted - 01/03/2007 : 09:23:48
I made the time period 2331 because applicability of science always lags discovery. For example, Clarke's 2001. Although we've been to the moon in the late 60's, nothing has happened since then. Minsky said that we'd have thinking computers in the 1980's-90's--like HAL in 2001--hasn't happened. That doesn't mean it can't happen--like deep genetic engineering of people--but it means that both the technologic methodology and the social and political systems don't move very quickly. I made the setting Mars because I think it will take a frontier setting, with urgent priorities, to permit such large social changes.

The most interesting aspect of expanding into space (if it happens) will be the movement of society, politically as well as culturally. Proteus is, at its core, an optimistic story even though it's ripe with conflict--I hope if it happens, we are sufficiently strong to take the high road.
specfiction Posted - 05/04/2006 : 07:59:15
A number of readers have asked about simulations. Simulations are central to some of my stories as well as to Proteus Rising. I thought some readers might be interested in the more transcendental aspects of simulations.

A simulation is a model used to predict or gain insight into the system it's modeling. All we have are models that we infer from experiment. We call that collection of models science. Evolution is a model for what is happening in the objective world—that's why science changes—we amend our model. For anyone who's interested, Richard Dawkins, in The Blind Watch Maker, develops an evolutionary simulation of avatars with 16 genes, then evolves them under "non-random" environmental pressures. To take the simulation idea a little farther, Wolfram once proposed a theory in which the universe was actually a giant computer executing a kind of algorithm, and the laws of physics were just a shadowy inference of the universe's operating system. David Deutsch, arguably one of the first proponents of quantum computers, in his book, The Fabric of Reality, argues that the use of a virtual reality simulation to test the possibility of deriving an experiment in which an inhabitant of a virtual world could tell whether he/she were virtual. His motivation was to explore if we could determine from experiment if we were, in fact, a simulation of some more objective reality.
specfiction Posted - 05/03/2006 : 10:29:06

The idea behind the main character, George Mills, is that I wanted very much not to exaggerate him—make him unbelievably brilliant, or self-assured, or the hero from an adventure tale. I imagine him at once common, and at the same time gifted. The most brilliant people I've known in my own life have been, at first reserved, but on closer inspection, in possession of a curious competence. As you get to know them, the full extent of their gift slowly asserts itself. George is that way—a seemingly common man of uncommon ability. As the story unfolds, he surprises himself as much as those around him.

As for the science, I hope, as you read on, that it becomes more believable. In the original manuscript the science was much more explicit. I sent Proteus out to agents and publishers and got quite a bit of feedback—all of it very negative as to the science. A few of them secretly told me they thought it was interesting, but thought it would be a hard sell. I paired it back—greatly. One of the reasons I started SFR is because in order to satisfy them, I felt I would have to dumb Proteus down to a point where it would no longer be interesting.
johngilbert Posted - 05/02/2006 : 22:30:07
Proteus Rising - impressions after reading the first four chapters:

I love the grand sweep of the scale, and pacing of the story. Many first time scifi stories end up bogged down in unimportant world building detail, and never get rolling. Less commonly, stories can go too fast, and too easily, losing all believability. Proteus, at least in the first four chapters, has a good pace, not being dull and not being frenetic.

The descriptions of the cities on Mars really seem tangible and genuine.

The weakest part might be the main character. He might be stretching the suspension of disbelief a little. Is he a computer genius or a biology genius or a poly-sci genius or what? Oh that's right, he is a Professor of Physics. I will have to see how the rest of the tale plays out before I can fully judge the character. He might be spawning new species too easily (computer and super-human) for my ability to believe.

The political situation, with several groups (some quite shadowy) each with their own agenda, and willing to resort to whatever means necessary, makes for a very tense and interesting situation. That part of the story is as good perhaps as anything Frank Herbert designed. I hope the tension and intrigue continue as well in the following chapters.

Grammar and word choice wise, the story is very good. Readability is high, the descriptive passages are clear and crisp, and interesting. There are a handful of grammar/typo issues, but only about five or six in over forty pages of text - much better than say the ratio on MSNBC.com or most newspapers these days.

The four chapters completely held my interest, and I recommend them without reservation.

John Gilbert
specfiction Posted - 03/17/2006 : 10:57:34
This is a NASA shot of Valles Marineris, the canyon on Mars where Proteus Rising takes place in the year 2331. I can almost see the Domes...

A composite video view high above Valles Marineris, the 'Grand Canyon of Mars,' on the planet Mars, which resembles parts of the desert west of the United States but on a vastly greater scale, is seen in this NASA handout released March 13, 2006. Here the canyon averages over a hundred miles wide, and its floor is heaped with rocks, sediment, and landslide debris. Geologists think channels such as these were carved by water as it escaped through faults and cracks in the subsurface. This scene comes from 'Flight Through Mariner Valley,' a video produced for NASA by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

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