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Silence Like Diamonds – Episode 1: Family Business

John Barnes
Faster-Than-Light Reading
John Barnes, Author
7/24/2015
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And now for some light reading on Light Reading: Something a liltle different for our readers -- a science fiction story, written especially for communications service providers by veteran science fiction writer and technology journalist John Barnes.

Join us in the day after tomorrow, as a mild-mannered network security consultant is ripped from her quiet life when she investigates unusual activity affecting the biggest cloud applications provider in the world.

"Silence Like Diamonds" is brought to you in ten parts on Fridays and Tuesdays for the next few weeks. Sit back, pour yourself a cup of chamomile-peppermint tea, pet the cats and enjoy Episode 1. We hope you enjoy it as much as we did. -- The Editors


The override siren made me spill a lovely, just-drinking-temperature cup of chamomile-peppermint. Amaryllis, Daisy and Mrs. Greypaws all bolted from the balcony and under the bed, wailing.

My sister Yazzy paid me extra to have that super-powered, never-off phone bell always hanging over my silence. It was worth it except when it went off. I rubbed the tea splashes on my old yoga pants, kicked my slippers off at the French doors and padded inside barefoot. "House, main parlor."

The siren doused into muffled plaintive mewing. Paintings, bulletin boards and windows vanished from the interior wall. I dragged my chair over to face it, about a meter away.

The wall became apparently transparent, seeming to join my morning parlor to my sister's late afternoon office. She had that smirk, having caught me before I dressed for the day. "Hi, Yip. How's Arcata?"

"Same as always. How's Prague?"

"Different from Arcata. I talked to the folks on Thursday. They're still okay?"

"You know, the usual. Mama robbed a bank; Táta drove the getaway car."

She stuck her tongue out at me, just like when we were kids. "All right, and how're things on the Markus front?"

"I'm sorry I ever told you about that. I don't know if I should even try to get his interest. What if he finds out there's hereditary yenta-ism in my family?"

Yazzy sighed. "I guess you just want to get right to business, huh?"

"Well, I do have my itsy-bitsy pottering pleasures to bury myself in."

"I'm sorry I ever said that. Does that make us even?"

"What's the gig, sis? Who's the client and what's the matter?"

"It's NameItCorp. I guess you know who they are."

I held a thumb high. "Hey, good going." I was so impressed I didn't care if she saw. NameItCorp was as ubiquitous nowadays as Google had once been. Type or speak "NItCO" or "NameItCorp" while connected to the Net, add the name of any problem and AI and human operators would rush you a price and a time estimate, or Sorry, not possible with present tech, or Sorry, illegal. "What do they need us for?"

Yazzy shrugged. "They need you. And they're smart enough to know it. There are maybe 200 scheme architecture analysts worldwide, and last time Dusan ran 1,000 iterations of an open-ended self-defining search, 1,000 out of 1,000 times, you turned up in the top three."

"He's biased. He's your husband—"


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"He's the Zalodny in Zalodny Integrated Security, Yip. When he's analyzing on the marketing and business side, his feelings get into it about as much as yours do when you're tracing the money or mine do reading code. You're our single most salable asset, which is why we do pretty much any ridiculous thing you ask so that we can be the only 4D security firm that has 'Yi Ingrid Palacek, Yip to her friends, a legend in scheme architecture analysis...' "

"Ugh. I hate that stupid bio." It was good that we were talking through the screen-wall; it kept me from throwing vases at her.

Next Page: Deadly Interruption

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Susan Fourtané
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Susan Fourtané,
User Rank: Blogger
8/3/2015 | 4:10:28 AM
Re: Awesome idea!
ddgreenhill, indeed, science fiction has always played an important role in technology, either using current research to anticipate the future, or giving ideas about what could be possible if certain devices would exist. It's fascinating, isn't it? -Susan
Mitch Wagner
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Mitch Wagner,
User Rank: Lightning
7/31/2015 | 11:03:11 AM
Re: IT fiction ..
nasimon - Charles Stross has written a series of novels about an IT manager in a British spy agency code-named "the Laundry," that investigates paranormal threats. They're great fun. 
Mitch Wagner
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Mitch Wagner,
User Rank: Lightning
7/31/2015 | 11:01:25 AM
Re: Episode 1
The names I've given cars are unprintable. 
John Barnes
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John Barnes,
User Rank: Blogger
7/31/2015 | 7:01:02 AM
Re: Awesome idea!
ddgreenhill,


Always good to run into one of the Trufen of the Tribe, but did you have to make me feel so ancient? Ellison and Silverberg were the young rebels when I was a kid (which you may figure out was a while ago) -- we've had half a dozen revolutions, at least, since then.
ddgreenhill
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ddgreenhill,
User Rank: Light Beer
7/30/2015 | 9:53:04 AM
Awesome idea!
I grew up on science fiction, and devoured stories from all the masters - Issac Azimov, Aurthur C. Clarke, Ray Bradbury and the classices like Jules Vern and Edgar Rice Burroughs. Even the "outlaw: writers like Roger Zelazny and Harlan Ellison.

From that innocent childhood until now, i've seen this fiction become fact. From the lunar landings to all our modern technology, we read it first in science fiction.

How appropriate that we should turn to it again as we discuss the futore possibilites of our technology. Thank you!
John Barnes
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John Barnes,
User Rank: Blogger
7/27/2015 | 4:14:57 AM
Re: IT fiction ..
Oh, there's quite a bit of computer-related science fiction, and even closely related to IT.  Historically there hasn't been as much near-future IT because the general reading public doesn't know what's possible, what's coming, and what's not, so unfortunately a "tale of wonder" about a future technology may not produce much wonder because they don't realize it's either future or difficult.


True story: when I was working on one book set in the near future, I included everyone carrying a voice recognition transcriber to meetings; that is, a gadget that wrote down what everyone said, attributing it to the correct speaker, and producing a document that looked something like a playscript. I learned later that one editor had sent an assistant out at lunch to "shop for one of those" at the Apple store.

Most people know we don't have the starship Enterprise yet, but a surprising number have no idea how miraculous and world changing the tech I'm going to be weaving into this story really might be.  That's why it's great to work for this audience (and also terrifying) -- you know what ISN'T YET!
nasimson
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nasimson,
User Rank: Light Sabre
7/26/2015 | 10:27:09 AM
IT fiction ..
This is something I've never come across earlier. Pardon my ignorance but is it the first time IT fiction is written?
DHagar
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DHagar,
User Rank: Light Sabre
7/24/2015 | 5:56:15 PM
Re: Episode 1
John, Will do!  Yes, I am thinking that they may assume functions as well, i.e., robotics?  I look forward to learning more.
John Barnes
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John Barnes,
User Rank: Blogger
7/24/2015 | 5:50:21 PM
Re: Episode 1
Thanks for the kind words! I suppose given that people attribute personalities to machines (think how many people you know who name their cars ...) that as we all become dependent on drones, we'll start to have nicknames for them.


And I can promise you a surprise or two up the road with Joy Sobretu as well ... and a few others.  But anything more would be spoiling -- so watch for Episode 2 on Tuesday.

 
DHagar
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DHagar,
User Rank: Light Sabre
7/24/2015 | 5:29:27 PM
Re: Episode 1
John, highly engaging!  Looking forward to the next episode!  Like the drones as characters.
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