"Silence Like Diamonds" is an unusual science fiction story in an unusual format and place.
"Silence Like Diamonds" is a near-future thriller about a security consultant who just wants to be left alone to her gardening, cats and her work -- following the money through digital networks to solve computer crimes. But when her family business is hired by the world's largest cloud service provider, NameItCorp., to solve a security breach, she's drawn into a worldwide conspiracy. What's worse, evidence points to her own family being at the center of the conspiracy.
"Silence Like Diamonds" is a fast-paced, lunch-hour read, with three things that make it unusual.
The first unusual element is the place where the story runs: Right here on Light Reading. Although the story is set in the future, we published it as a means of illustrating the issues that our readers are facing today, and extrapolating those issues into tomorrow -- the latest developments in cryptography, drones, AI and security.
The second quality that makes the story unusual is the format: We ran it in ten parts, just a thousand words each, over the course of five weeks. It wrapped up this week, and now you can read the whole thing. Just start with Episode One, and click through the pages until you reach the end. It won't take long -- and you won't be able to stop once you start. (See Silence Like Diamonds – Episode 1: Family Business or click here to access the full list of episodes.)
"Silence Like Diamonds" isn't just a 10,000-word story chopped up arbitrarily into ten pieces. Every episode has a beginning, middle, and ends with a cliffhanger, and each episode totals within a few words of 1,000 words. It's a tour-de-force of technique.
The third element that makes this story unusual: Well, we think it's unusually good. The author is John Barnes, with more than 30 published novels to his credit, including Orbital Resonance, A Million Open Doors, Mother of Storms and Tales of the Madman Underground. He co-authored the science fiction novel Encounter With Tiber with astronaut Buzz Aldrin.
In addition to the story, Light Reading has published a wealth of supplemental material discussing the issues in "Silence Like Diamonds": Start with the discussions on the message boards following each part of the story.
Then browse blog posts by West Coast Bureau Chief Mitch Wagner (hey, that's me!):
- Light Reading Goes Faster Than Light
- How We Got Into the Science Fiction Game
- Predictions Are Hard, Especially About the Future
- How Science Fiction Got the Communications Future Wrong
- What if Encryption Just Stopped Working?
- All Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace
- Like Driverless Cars? Try a Driverless Cloud
- Keeping Secrets Is Hard in the Year 2030
- Fact-Checking the Future of 'Silence Like Diamonds'
- 'Silence Like Diamonds' Concludes
- Bonus: Light Reading Salutes Leonard Nimoy: He Lived Long & Prospered (by my colleague Dan Jones).
And author Barnes has published a series of posts on his own blog that delve deeper into the technology issues, as well as some thoughts on the craft of writing a story with the unusual constraints of this one:
- Tomorrow morning: Fresh serial!
- How nine heuristic rules, a handful of points, links, and curves, and some historical parallels all come together in a serial
- Episode 3 of Silence Like Diamonds is up early, and I was up late and had some futuristical thoughts about communication relay drones.
- Episode 4 is up, so it's time for some cryptic remarks about Silence
- Episode 5 is up, so here's a blog about robocorps, pitchforks, hairy monosyllabists, decision rules, and the tenth heuristic (with a footnote about pistachios)
- The rhythm of a novelet, why Episode 6 ends with brass, and digressions into a terrible fantasy novelet and a great overture
- Episode 7 is up. And some thoughts about a cyberworld with failed encryption and low trust
- More than a toaster that remembers and more than a refrigerator that spies on you: Four thoughts about Internet of Things 2.0
- Episode 9 is up, so here's a set of digressions leading up to why I called it "Silence Like Diamonds"
- Every silence ends. "Silence Like Diamonds" ends in Episode 10. So here are some thoughts about endings.
And now we're done and it's time to draw the curtain. We hope you enjoy reading "Silence Like Diamonds" as much as we enjoyed publishing it.