Guping is on its way

Just found this BBC article about "beaming" yourself into avatars.

Reality is catching up with my fiction.

Oh, and this: brain-scan-controlled robot.

Thanks to Larissa Hammond for these.

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Reviews and Responses

I recently talked to someone I know on Google+ about _Gu_ and he picked it up and read it. He totally gets it, as this blog post shows: It’s Gu-tastic!.

And another Plusser, in a non-public post on G+ itself, described it as odd, interesting, intriguing and "worth your time". Again, that's what I was going for, so it's good to see that I've apparently achieved it.

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Gu, the Kindle edition

Having recently discovered how damn easy it is, I've published Gu in a Kindle edition.

At the moment, only Kindle - I'm giving their KDP Select thing a whirl, where you give it to them exclusively for 90 days, so it won't go on Smashwords just yet. (I just want to see what happens. Don't necessarily love the idea of platform exclusivity, just want to compare with City of Masks, which is on both Kindle and Smashwords.)

Part of what I can do with KDP Select is make it free for a period of time, which I'm doing - for two days, starting at midnight Pacific time on the 24th (I don't get to choose the time, unfortunately).

The process didn't take long. I used the Anthologize plugin - which is buggy as anything (and refuses to update) but is quicker than copying-and-pasting a bunch of blog posts - to get it out to an RTF file. Then I fixed up the missing spaces, lost italics and incorrect special characters, changed a few words and a chapter title, and there I was.

I then created a quick-and-dirty cover using a Creative Commons-licensed Flickr image and the online photo editor Pixlr (since I was on a computer that lacked either Photoshop or Gimp). I've since done a Photoshop version that's a bit more cromulant (shown here).

I wouldn't do this for a book that I thought would do really well, but Gu hasn't exactly attracted a big audience in blog form and I don't expect it to get one as an ebook either, so I wasn't about to spend much time, or any money, getting a proper cover done. I just want to get it out there in basic form.

If you enjoyed it here on the blog, please go and leave a review. (The text is essentially the same.) Thanks!

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New novel: The Gryphon Clerks

Gu readers, I've started a new novel, The Gryphon Clerks. Heroic steampunk-fantasy civil servants. Go now and subscribe to updates!

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New novel: The Y People

Just to let anyone know who's subscribed to this blog but not City of Masks: Over there, I've started a new novel called The Y People. (That link is to Chapter 1.)

It's quite different from Gu, but then, almost everything is.

Four young people with unusual powers are brought together, pursued by the unsettling "Mr Brown". Where did their powers come from, and who is trying to exploit them? Can they avoid being tools of their shadowy sponsors in a cause they haven't yet identified?

A novel about being teenage, different, and human.

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City of Masks on Authonomy

I've just added my previous novel City of Masks on Authonomy, which is a website Harper-Collins Publishers have set up to get the reading public to help them choose books for publication.

If you want to help me out, especially if you've already read City of Masks and enjoyed it, please hop over to Authonomy, sign up, and add City of Masks to your bookshelf (by clicking the "Back the Book" link).

More detail on the City of Masks blog.


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And that's all he wrote.

For now, anyway. I may eventually, when things are slow, revise this and put it on Lulu, but it hasn't generated much interest so far and I have other projects to move onto.

It's short by probably 10,000 words of even a short novel, too.

At the moment I think it will just sit and be background for another future project - Up the Line, a space-elevator novel which is totally not about the engineering in any way.

I hope you've enjoyed reading, and thanks to those of you who subscribed to my RSS feed.

Further announcements about other projects will be made on my other novel blog, City of Masks, for now; please subscribe there to be kept informed. At a later point I will probably shift the action to my own website, but for now, City of Masks is the place to go.

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You are Callie Arnold again, being interviewed by Halwaz in your home.

"You have become something of a celebrity, haven't you?" she asks.

You flush. Clearly there is an emotional charge to this word.

"Not really by choice. I've been told I interview well. But it is nice that nobody spells my first name with a 'K' now."

"One thing you haven't mentioned so far is Gu-knocking. Was that something you thought about when you introduced Gu? Or didn't it cross your mind?"

Your stomach clenches and sinks a little.

"Well - honestly, I'd have to say, it did, though not in the form it ended up taking. Most major technologies start out military, eventually become commercial, and the instant they become commercial are co-opted for sexual stimulation. I mean, language was probably the first example. It's just part of how people think. Gu managed to skip the military part - which I've always been smug about - but frankly, the Gu sex doll was inevitable from day one. I knew that. I just didn't predict exactly how the pornographers would use it, because I don't think like they do."

"If someone had asked you, what would you have thought they would do?"

"I probably would have guessed much the same as what the fullmesh sites offered. But I didn't actually know what that was."

"Although you were fully meshed yourself."

"Yes, you have to be in materials science. Standing inside a simulation of virtual molecules, pushing them and feeling how they stick and fold, is part of how you come up with innovations. But I had carefully not ever gone near the porn spaces - I didn't really want to know."

"So you didn't know that they used the images of well-known people?"

"No, it wasn't common knowledge. Relatively few people were fullmeshed, fewer than now, not only because of expense but because it was so invasive back then. I remember, though, about a week after the first commercial release - here."

Another memory bead.

The memory is slightly crisper than the earlier one, though still not approaching current standards. You are in a robe, sipping coffee, reading the morning news the old-fashioned slow way, on a slate. The setting resembles the present-day one where Arnold is being interviewed. She narrates in voiceover:

"The lead article in my morning news digest had an unusually high hit ranking - my interests aren't particularly mainstream. I thought at first my digest service had glitched and included a Hollywood gossip article."

The headline is "Nebraska Rovira Sues Over Blow-Up Doll".

"AP/Detroit. Entertainer and model Nebraska Rovira is suing a company called Blue Stars Entertainments for 'inappropriate and unauthorized exploitation of image,' alleging that they have used a copy of her nude scene in the popular holo Call Me Carson Jackson to create an image of her in the new programmable matter medium known as Gu.

"The company is said to have programmed it with a public-domain sex response AI, blown air into it to keep it from collapsing, and rented it out by the quarter-hour in a dingy building in downtown Detroit.

"Ms Rovira is expected to be joined in the suit by other well-known models and members of the entertainment industry once the legal discovery process has progressed."

You feel a mixture of amusement and sympathetic chagrin, with a hint of disdain.

Cut back to present day.

"I was already living here then, and the commentators - professional and amateur - had had a couple of hours already to react to the news. One of them had already coined the name 'Gu-knocking' for what the Blue Stars guys had done, and it stuck." (Links to Mike Sutton's archived post, and to Nebraska Rovira's article in Starpedia, which describes her as "the first person to be Gu-knocked", are available in the context menu at this point.)

"Did you support their suit?"

"Against the pornographers, yes. Not the one against us, naturally, but they dropped that very early on, it was always clear they had no chance of winning."

"But they did win against Blue Stars."

"Of course they did, especially when it came out that the copy of Call Me Carson Jackson was actually a bootleg. Adding insult to injury, or possibly the other way around. But once the idea was out there you couldn't put it back in the box, and as Gu got cheaper it inevitably started to go amateur - a lot harder to prosecute."

"What did you think about that?"

"Well, I agreed with the courts that, technically, the most the amateurs could be charged with was a breach of 'fair use'. That if people were going to put their naked image out in public - often earning a lot of money for doing so, incidentally - then other people were naturally going to use it for sexual gratification. But I didn't like the way it progressed, when the Gu-knockers started to image-process people's clothes off so that they could Gu-knock celebrities who hadn't appeared naked."

"Like they did with you."

"Yes." You're embarrassed. "I mean, I have as much of a sense of irony as anyone, but - I'm a bit conservative about nudity, and I have to say, I felt a sense of violation."

"When you found out?"

"Yes. When I found out that anyone could go to a fileswapping network and download holographic images of my naked body, and use it to make a sex doll, yes, I did." You're angry and embarrassed, avoiding Halwaz's eyes.

"Do you have the memory of when you got that news?"

"Yes, but I'm not going to give it to you. I've never reviewed it myself and I'm not going to give it to you."

You deliberately slow your breathing, calm yourself down, relax your tightened muscles.

"Sorry," you say, meeting Halwaz's gaze again. "I do have a memory I can give you that bears on this, though."

"What's that?"

"It's from after public opinion turned against the Gu-knockers - when the main fad was over, not that it was all that widespread as a percentage of the population. I mean, blow-up dolls? The Gu-knockers were always seen as losers, but at the same time, when it was just celebrities - people like seeing celebrities embarrassed, it's a kind of shameful sport. Schadenfreude, isn't that the word? But when it came out that people were taking clandestine holography of work colleagues, people who lived in the same building, people on the street, and Gu-knocking them - and these were usually people that, well, let's say wouldn't be likely to get many dates in the usual course of things - then the tide turned. They started to be regarded like Gu-melters, the kind of people who take a laser to the beach and fire it at women's breasts to see if they're enhanced with Gu, or to the park and laser-disrupt people's Gu-coses in case they're not wearing anything underneath. And this memory is my own little bit of sociological research, captured unexpectedly in the wild."

The memory is recent. You are walking down the street when three boys, about 15, pass you, jostling each other in adolescent high spirits. One of them trips another. He recovers, and swipes at his friend.

"Ah, ya Gu-knocker!" he says, laughing.

You experience a complex satisfaction.

Posted in Callie Arnold, Nebraska Rovira | 3 Comments


Professor Allan Scott is dressed in a girl's school uniform, a blonde wig, and robes, and reading a volume entitled Hogwarts: A History. He puts it down and smiles at us welcomingly through his now rather incongruous white beard.

"Yupe," he says. "A neologism built on a neologism built on a neologism. A portmanteau word of Youth and Gupe, which is itself a contraction of Guplicate, which is a portmanteau of Gu and duplicate, and Gu is a genericised brand name inspired by a word in another language. For all the apparent ugliness of the actual word "Yupe", if you look at it linguistically it has the intricacy of a snowflake."

He gets up in order to gesture more widely.

"And why do we need such a word? Because sociologically, we feel that opportunities for sexual activity should be restricted below a certain age - an age which still varies between jurisdictions, though a consensus is slowly converging on the late teens.

"In Second Life, which was one of the early virtual communities with customizable avatars, your default avatar started out with no genitals. You had to specifically buy genitals if you wanted your avatar to have some." Screen shot of Second Life avatars with genitals of various sizes and shapes. "And, indeed, Brandy and Clint also start out with no genitals; the original actors on whom they were modelled wore body-stockings. Like Ken and Barbie, they weren't anatomically correct. But, of course, the inherent property of Gu is that it can adopt any shape, and it took, I would imagine, about 17 milliseconds for someone to think 'sex doll'.

"No problem while Gu was rare, just as when the World Wide Web was only used by a few adult scientists there was no need to build it with content filters. But as Gu became widespread, just as when the Web became widespread, we faced a problem: There was content that was inappropriate for minors and no way in place to prevent them accessing it.

"Now, there are a couple of ways to address a problem like that. The early World Wide Web, for the most part, assumed everyone was an adult unless there was something to indicate that they weren't, and warned people, sometimes, when they were about to access adult content that they needed to agree that they were a legal adult in order to do so. Of course, that was completely ineffective as a content filter, and so filters had to be built into the client end instead.

"Because Gu isn't an open system owned by, effectively, everyone, but a proprietary system owned by a single company, it has more exposure to potential litigation and so it has to do a little better than that. Increasingly, its solution is to assume that you're not an adult unless you can prove otherwise - to put the burden of proof on the user - and to restrict the actions you can perform accordingly, which has led to widespread user outrage. It's really a damned if you do, damned if you don't scenario - whichever path you take is going to get you criticized, and not just criticized but vilified. Vilified - isn't that a perfect word? From a root meaning 'to make vile'.

"Anyhow. Hence, Yupe - a form, or rather mode, of Gu which doesn't permit Gupes to form genitals, and in its more advanced versions detects sexualized actions and does its best to prevent them.

"Leading, of course, to an unprecedentedly massive amount of cracking activity by hormone-driven young people."

Mix through to a Clint, captioned "Teenage Gu-cracker".

"Yeah, I make a pretty good thing out of fake IDs. My dad tells me about when he was a kid - he got bullied because he was a nerd. Me, I have protection from the jocks. They're all my customers. Nobody messes with me, or next time they try to pretend to be 18 to beat the Yupe... lights and sirens, you know what I mean?" He gestures whirling police lights with one hand.

Vox pop in a characterless location, this time just with teenagers. All of them are anonymous Brandys and Clints.

A Brandy: "Everyone does it, you know? It kind of scrapes that you have to sneak around, but nobody thinks it's wrong."

A Clint: "I wouldn't do it. I mean, you're breaking two laws, one with the sex and one with the cracking, plus you're going behind your parents' backs. No, I can wait."

Another Brandy: "I just want to be a kid for a while, you know? I don't need to drink and have sex and all that adult stuff to enjoy my life, I can enjoy doing kid stuff. There's plenty of fun you can have with Gu without making out with it." She makes an "ugh" face.

A third Brandy: "I tried it once, but it was kind of creepy. I'd rather be actually with my boyfriend, you da? It's just not the same. We're careful what we do, and it's safe enough without having to use Gu."

Another Clint: "My parents don't think it's a big deal - they'd rather I had safe Gusex than unsafe realsex, anyway. And so far there's no law that says they have to make me use Yupe. I'm hoping that by the time one passes I'll be adult anyway, but... it'd be a victimless crime."

A third Clint: "There's some really nasty stuff out there - I mean, it's not just straight sex, there's a world of possibilities, and most of them... I'm not ready. I've backed right off the whole thing, trashed my files, and... I'm trying to hold out. There's kind of a fascination, though, you know?"

A fourth Clint: "This is the greatest thing that's happened to teenagers ever. I love Gusex."

Cut to a sequence from the indie comedy Bob & Lola. Bob and Lola's teenage son Tony finds a text site with a headline: "Hijacking your Dad's Identity to Beat the Yupe." Dramatic three-stage close-up on his lustful look. This is followed by a soft-filter "dream sequence" with a Gupe of exaggerated female proportions kissing him passionately on the couch, which falls backwards, obscuring the continuation of the fantasy.

Cut to Lola, later, doing the accounts. She focusses in on a line item we can't see. Her face is stricken, then angry; the light in the room dims, then flickers like lightning. She storms out of the room bellowing, "Bob!".

The viewpoint next follows Tony as he walks up to the front door, whistling cheerfully. As he opens the door, a jug flies out of the house over his shoulder and crashes on the ground behind him, and suddenly, as if the door had been soundproof, we hear an argument going on at high volume - Bob protesting while Lola shouts accusations.

Tony enters the living room to find his father kneeling on the floor, bent backwards, while Lola - who's a tiny, doll-like woman - brandishes a rolling pin in his face.

Tony: What's going on? What did Dad do now?
Bob: I didn't do it!
Lola (furious): He's having an affair with a girl your age!
Bob: I'm not!
Tony: [is stricken]
Lola: Oh, yeah? So how do you explain...
Tony (strangled voice): Mom...
Lola: Shut up, Tony, I'm about to murder your father. Bob, you weasel!
Tony (a little louder): Mom...
Lola: WHAT?
Tony (mumbling very quickly): itwasn'tDaditwasme.
Lola and Bob: WHAAAT?

Zoom in rapidly on Tony, terrified and sick-looking, then mix through to the running gag of Tony in his room, grounded, bored, bouncing a tennis ball off the ceiling. It hits him in the face. He lies back and sighs.

Back to Allan Scott.

"And sadly," he says, "that episode was based, not just on one true story, but on many. Not all of which ended so well, either, if you can use 'well' as a description of how that one ended. Like any security situation, it's an arms race, and sometimes the attackers are ahead of the defenders.

"And Yupe is not just for youth any more. Business travellers are also booking Yupes under pressure from their partners." This is in voiceover, across a stock shot of a city street with Gupes, or presumably Yupes, walking back and forth. "Religious believers are defending themselves from temptation by Yuping rather than Guping. There are rumours that in the next version of Gu, Yupe mode will be an option you opt out of rather than opting into, and that opting out will require one of the more secure forms of ID."

You are across from Serena Koslowski. "Can you confirm those rumours?" you ask.

"It's certainly something we've been asked for," she replies, "and we're reviewing the implications carefully. At this time, though, there are no immediate plans for implementation in the next release."

"But it could happen someday?"

"Oh, many things could happen someday. My advice is, don't believe everything you hear, especially about Gu. And most especially about Gusex. Lying, rumour, innuendo and exaggeration surround sex as dark surrounds night."

Posted in Allan Scott, Gusex, Serena Koslowski, Yupe | 2 Comments


"Any communications technology is, sooner or later, going to be used for a sexual purpose," you say. "No, scratch that - there's no 'sooner or later'. Sooner."

Reverse shot to Halwaz's perspective, revealing that you began this scene from the viewpoint of Joe Dillon. He continues:

"I've got a mass of interviews here that I did on how Guplicates have affected dating behaviour. Here's a classic sample."

The woman in the interview is a Brandy, safely anonymized, a common thing now in such research studies. Her features are the upgraded Brandy 3.0, so you can see her facial expressions clearly, but they are relaxed and neutral almost throughout.

"One-night stands are a whole lot safer now," she's saying. "I go to a virtual singles bar. I'm sitting safe at home - nobody is going to drug my drink, I'm not even drinking alcohol. Nobody's going to rape me or mug me as I stumble home. I can hook up with a guy and neither of us even needs to know where the other one lives in order to 'go home together'. I give him a one-time access xrl, he gives me one. We don't wake up together. He can't beat me up, even if that's his thing. I can't get pregnant, I can't get diseases - I'm using my own Gu. All the benefits, none of the drawbacks."

"So really you have no connection with these guys whatever, apart from the sex?" asks Dillon in voiceover.

"No, and this is different how?" she says. "We don't want any other connection, or we wouldn't be in that bar. There are ways to get a relationship if you want a relationship."

"And how do you feel about the fact that it could be a woman or a bot on the other end?"

"Pretty relaxed," she says. "As far as I'm concerned, what happens to me is real, and as long as it's what I enjoy, what or who is on the other end doesn't make a bit of difference."

"So why go to the bar at all? Why not just program your Gu for what you want?"

She pauses over this one.

"Well, I enjoy the ritual, and the element of unpredictability. And you've got to get out now and then, don't you?" She laughs, slightly embarrassed for the first time.

The clip ends.

"So that's kind of the minimal end of the dating behaviour spectrum," says Dillon. "I guess there's a continuum from that all the way across to people who live as married couples with people they've never seen in person, people that are on the other side of the world, and all their interaction is via Gupe. There are a few now."

John Sweet and Linda Carr are such a couple. According to their metadata, John lives in New Zealand and Linda in the Republic of Scotland. Their Gupes sit together on a two-seater couch, hand in hand, for an interview.

"The opposite time zones are a bit of an issue in a way," says John, a comfortably balding, casually dressed middle-aged man with a ready smile. "But I suppose it's just like a couple where one of you works nights. It's really only at the weekends that it's a problem at all. We spend each end of the day together, and then one of us works while the other sleeps."

"Actually, of course, we don't get a complete weekend together, because his Saturday is my Friday anyway," says Linda. "But at least once a month, one of us gets up early and the other stays up late and we spend some extra time. It's worth it." She looks at him fondly, her straight blonde hair brushing back and forth against her strong jaw as she turns. She is plump, an ordinary-looking middle-aged Scottish woman, and clearly comfortable with showing that to her partner and the world.

"How long have you been together?" you ask.

"Five years," they answer together, and laugh.

"It's no' so bad, is it, John?" asks Linda.

"It's pretty good," he says, and clasps her hand with both of his.

"Why doesn't one of you move across the world so you can be together?" you ask.

"We are together," says Linda. "We both have jobs we love, houses we love, friends and family nearby that we don't want to part from - it's a sight harder to stay in touch with ten people across the world than it is wi' one. We talk about it sometimes, talk about going on holiday physically to one another's places, but we've no' really felt the need."

Cut to a series of vox pop interviews on a street in New York. You have a general hail out saying you're interviewing people about dating and relationships by Gupe, and there seems to be no shortage of people with opinions.

An aggressive, definite young woman with multiple scarves and bright magenta hair: "I wouldn't date anyone over Gupe. You never know what you're getting. And Gusex, ewww. Not likely."

An anonymous Clint Gurista with an English accent: "Yes, I've done it. It's never really worked out for me in the long term - I think for a long-term relationship you need to be in person. But I've dated by Gupe for all or part of several relationships. Sometimes at the start, and then we've met in person, and sometimes partway through - we've begun in person and kept up a relationship for a while via Gupe when one of us moves."

A slow-speaking, thoughtful man with an Afro and piercings, his head on one side as he considers: "It's... I'll tell you. It's not the same. But it can be the next best, you know? To stay in touch with someone, to connect with someone and try out how it goes for you together... Sure, it can work."

A young, overhyped person of indeterminate gender in a Gu catsuit, complete with flicking tail: "Gu is great. You can be anything to anyone. Any shape, any way, you know? You know?"

A Brandy: "I'm in a club, kind of. It's like a chain marriage, from Heinlein, you know? And we do it all via Gupe. Meet up, connect, introduce the new person to everyone... all Gupe. We've got, what, a dozen members now, I think there have been 15 altogether but some have, you know, moved on. People all over the world. It's like, a movement, you da?"

A trendy New York businesswoman in a dark suit, dark hair cut short on one side, slightly longer on the other in the height of fashion, with deliberately unnatural-looking makeup: "I only ever have in-person relationships. Call me old-fashioned, but I like to know who I'm with, you unnerstand? I like to make sure they're who and what they say they are, right from the beginning."

A neatly dressed little man, with a wrinkled face - he could be any age from a worn 40 to a healthy 75. The wrinkles mainly seem to be smile wrinkles; he smiles constantly. "Well, I have occasionally met people over Gupe to get to know them, yes. Only the preliminaries, mind, only the preliminaries. If intimacy is wanted, then I insist on meeting in person so that we can verify each other's veracity, if you know what I mean." He winks.

A late-teenage boy, his hair in anime wings in the latest style, his Gushirt covered in dancing figures and flashing lights, his manner furtive, his face obscured at his request: "Look, I never date anyone I only know over Gupe. It's like, my policy. Gotta know them in person first. But... I don't usually tell people this... I only ever have Gusex. I'm kind of afraid, you da? Safer that way, and you can be kind of more discreet. You know, virtual environment, Gusuit, at home in bed at night..."

An older woman, conservatively dressed, her face set in disapproving lines, her makeup subtle but definite: "Look, I think it's sick. People using this technology to avoid the consequences of their behaviour. Those people who came up with Gu, they have a lot to answer for, in my opinion. What we need is a return to old-fashioned values, where people who loved each other got married before they tried anything else, and they stayed together through thick and thin. None of this bouncing around all over the world. And young people start having sex far too young these days, because of this Gu. It's just wrong."

Posted in Brandy and Clint, Gusex, Joe Dillon, John Sweet, Linda Carr | 3 Comments