To celebrate the release of Cyber Sparks, I’ve invited its heroine, Allegra Mondebay, to give you some fascinating insights into the 23rd Century. It took a bottle of Vodka McCormick’s to convince her, but the men in the room (including me) all agree it was worth it. Now, she isn’t much of a history buff, but she does love old movies, especially early science fiction ones, and she once started a college project titled “Who Got it Right? A History of the Future in Science Fiction Cinema.”
RA: Allega, when you say you “started” the project, how far did—
AM: I sort of kind of thought about it in the shower once. The label on the shampoo bottle got me to thinking.
RA: About what?
AM: Hair. Duh. You really need to start paying attention.
RA: Sorry. So…who did get it right? Which movie predictions came true?
AM: Well, Audrey Hepburn had it spot-on when she cut it short. I’ve used that style quite a lot. I was Face of Semprica with that little number, in fact, before I was canned by those evil motherf—
RA: We’re here to talk about science fiction.
AM: Oooh. Sor-ree.
RA: Which movie was most accurate?
AM: Not many of ‘em, to be honest. Those dark and dingy worlds—Blade Runner, for instance—are a pretty good approximation of the inside of my garbage chute, but that’s all. Did they really think the people of Earth would let things get that bad? Wow. Glasses half empty, I guess. A Scanner Darkly—that was a 20th Century book, you know.
RA: And then it was made into a really good animated “rotoscope” film starring Keanu Reeves.
AM: From The Matrix. Another vision of the future that was way, way off base.
RA: You don’t have artificial intelligence in the 23rd Century?
AM: Eew, not to my knowledge, no. I’m pretty sure machines can never have that capability. You can’t create consciousness artificially. Intelligence, yes, but not consciousness. Think about it: of all the species that ever evolved on Earth, only one achieved true self-awareness, and even it can’t pinpoint its own capability. There’s no conscious core. It’s everything or nothing, and it’s infinitely complex. Try writing that as computer code.
RA: Heavy stuff. You studied that in university?
AM: In fifth grade. Right about the time I saw Avatar 17…in 6D.
AM: Oh dear, you are neanderthal, aren’t you. Still wearing those pitiful 3D glasses. Just wait till you get to interact with your favourite movie worlds inside VR. You’ll no longer be passive spectators. It’ll kick your brain functionality up several neural gears. Trust me, Angelina Jolie will make all your dreams come true.
RA: Ahem. You’ve told us which films got it wrong. So who gets the gold star?
AM: Well, it may sound dumb to you guys obsessed with garbage chute futures and whizzy-whizzy lightsabres, but the closest prediction to what really happens, at least in the spirit of what happens, has been around for decades in your time. It’s been laughed at by those that don’t get it. But let me tell you, that guy Rodenberry hit it out of the park.
AM: You’re funny. And by that I mean funny-looking. But yeah, Star Trek got the optimism of the future right. There’s no money in the Federation, so they got that ass-backwards—to quote The Right Stuff, “No bucks, no Buck Rogers”—but on the whole they got it. Politics, exploration, trying to be tolerant of all species, using technology to better ourselves—and failing most of the time. Just look at what happened to me with the omnipod. But also take a good look at life on board the Enterprise and you’ll see that while those people are all flawed, they’re trying, really trying to make things better for humanity. ISPA (the Interstellar Planetary Administration) is the Federation of my time, and it’s starting to get on its feet again. It’s a struggle. There are no answers, and there’s no utopia either. I don’t think human nature will ever allow that.
But there sure as hell isn’t a dystopia unless the public becomes brain-dead and lets it happen. Remember, that’s on you, not the government, not big business. You, the ordinary people. So drop your garbage chute obsessions and lighten up, for chrissakes. Here, have a salted peanut, Replicant.
RA: Eh? What do you mean, I’m a…
AM: Please. You’ve doodled three unicorns already. Do I have to spell it out for you? Tears in rain and all that.
RA: I think I need a drink.
AM: Damn, is that the time already?
Cyber Sparks is available now at Carina Press, and everywhere ebooks are sold.
You can read the first two chapters here
My name is Allegra Mondebay, and this is the story of my last days on Earth…
Unlike my sparsely populated home, on Earth everything and everyone is plugged in. As a blacklisted model who needs to reboot my career, I can no longer resist the ultimate in virtual-reality networking: the omnipod. At first, altering the sights, sounds and scents around me seems harmless. Then I hear the voice.
Do not adjust your headset. You are in danger…
He says I must help him warn the public about the perils of the omnipod. I think he’s just a hacker–until innocent people start dying, and the police want to hold me responsible. Now, I’m on the run in a stolen shuttle, trying to figure out why he needs me. And if I don’t do as he says, he’ll kill the woman I love.