Tag archive: Por Vida

January Goodreads Giveaway: Por Vida

We are less than 90 days from the release of Hybrid Mechanics! To celebrate, I’d like to get every last soul on Earth reading my previous books. Not only will this prepare them for Book Five in the Vinestead Anthology, it will also generate revenue, increase name recognition, and hopefully, foment a paradigm shift in the basic tenets of civilization. To that end, I’m offering a FREE Kindle copy of Por Vida to 100 lucky sci-fi enthusiasts!

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An Allegory for Anxiety

In the opening chapter of Por Vidaa survivor of the MX Invasion blows the head off a synthetic killing machine with a high-powered rifle. Later, a character uses virtual reality to plan an incursion into a heavily fortified office building. Technological wonders pervade the novel, but they are merely a smokescreen for the real issues hiding underneath.

I developed social anxiety in high school. As a military brat, we moved often, so I was constantly exposed to new faces and environments. Fortunately, most military bases abroad are small, and the population of dependent children even smaller. My anxiety manifested as antisocial behavior and stayed that way until college.

At the University of Texas, everything changed. My anxiety graduated to physical symptoms. When you grow up in a high school of 400 people and are suddenly thrust onto a campus with 50,000, any anxiety you might have felt can be similarly multiplied. Throughout college and for many years following, I did nothing about it. No doctors. No pills. To me, it was just who I was.

Then I met Dom. She simply refused to see the world the way I saw it: dangerous, judgmental, to be avoided. She encouraged me to seek counseling. She dismissed the stigma of medication. 

Everything changed after that.

 Austin City Limits Music Festival

Austin City Limits Music Festival

 Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park

Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park

Social anxiety is an interesting condition, especially when it manifests itself physically. Just like being afraid of heights, new situations and new people can make me physically ill. My stomach tightens, I sweat, I stammer… it spirals pretty quickly.

Once I started treating my anxiety with medication, all of those physical symptoms went away (or were greatly diminished), and I was amazed to discover how much they were feeding into the anxiety attack cycle. It prompted the question: is social anxiety purely biological?

Only one main character from my previous novel Perion Synthetics was able to transfer into a synthetic body, and because it was towards the end of the story, I didn’t get to explore what it meant to go from an organic body to a synthetic one. Since then, and coupled with my own transformation, I’ve been considering new questions about the nature of certain abstracts: 

  • anxiety, depression, mania, etc.
  • sexual orientation
  • love, hate, anger

Are these purely biological impulses? Would transferring to a synthetic body suppress them the way medication does (anxiety/depression/etc, not sexual orientation or love, unless there’s a love drug I don’t know about)?

To answer these questions, I began Por Vida with a character (Sepideh Ahmadi) who is socially anxious and sexually attracted to her own gender. Neither of these qualities are extraordinary on their own, but once Sepideh transfers into a synthetic body, there’s debate as to whether her anxiety and orientation transfer over.

For that particular answer, you’ll have to read the book, but generally speaking, suppose they didn’t transfer overwhat would that mean for her relationship?

Without Dom, I never would have broken free from the shackles of social anxiety. With her, I’ve finally taken vacations, gone to concerts, and more or less reinserted myself into the world. I still struggle with social anxiety; the meds only do so much and I don’t want to be on them forever. It’s something I want to overcome, but to do that, I rely heavily on her.

Similarly, Sepideh relies on her girlfriend Natasha. It’s one of the many ways they need each other. Tragically for them, it might be the main reason they need each other: Sepideh needs someone to help her cope, Natasha needs someone to take care of. So if Sepideh’s anxiety is cured by transferring to a synthetic body, will she still need Natasha?

Luckily, my relationship with Dom is richer than the oversimplified relationship between Sepideh and Natasha, but the emotional content is the same. If you’ve ever asked yourself, however flippantly, will I still need her if I get better or will she still need me if I get better, then you know what I’m talking about.

If you’ve never felt that, then I encourage you to read Por Vida. I’ve written a story to share the emotions I’ve felt dealing with social anxiety and all of the fallout that comes with it. Judging by the posts I see on Facebook, I know some of you struggle with it as well, even if you don’t realize or want to admit it.

And if you are, please seek out a counselor. Try some meds. Read books about people with similar experiences. Or write your own book, like I did.

There are so many things in the world that can go wrong: an international conglomerate destroying the Internet, synthetic soldiers invading the US, peer-to-peer mesh networks infecting our brains with malware. Don’t let your body imprison you. Break free. Like Sepideh and Natasha.

I hope this insight gives you a little appreciation for what appears, superficially, to be just another Science Fiction Cyberpunk-wannabe story about robots and explosions.

Just like the blank looks and fake smiles you see out there in the scary, scary world, there’s always more below the surface.

Por Vida Preorder Bonus

The latest chapter in the Vinestead saga is officially available for PREORDER today!

“Why should I pre-order your book, Daniel? What’s my incentive?” – Billy the Square

That’s a great question that cuts right to the bone, Billy! You’re right; you should get some kind of bonus for preordering Por Vida and supporting my flailing writing career. Because yes, the joy and warm feeling of letting an independent author know his work is valued just doesn’t mean much in this on-the-go, Insta-snap world of ours. You need something more, and I understand that.

So here we go.

If you PREORDER the Kindle edition of Por Vida before January 9, 2017, I’ll send you a PDF of the first ten chapters of the book. That’s enough for you to meet the characters and learn a little about the Vinestead universe in the years 2035 and 2045 (including the Great Machine War so often mentioned in previous books).

“What if I don’t like the ten chapters? What if I cancel my pre-order?” – Billy the Square

Well, that’s your choice, Billy. Just keep in mind that I’ll know you canceled, and for every refund I see come across my dashboard, I’m going to give my dog a mean look.

 Cheyenne doesn't tolerate mean looks very well.

Cheyenne doesn’t tolerate mean looks very well.

If your conscience can bear indirectly causing a canine emotional distress, then by all means request your refund. But if you do, please consider donating the money to your local animal shelter.

Otherwise, forward your Amazon receipt to daniel@verastiqui.com, and I’ll send you the Por Vida: Preview Edition and my thanks as soon as possible!

 

Your email address won’t be used for anything else.
It won’t be added to my mailing list.
I won’t rat you out to the FBI.

I’ll just file it under email address of awesome person in my head.

 

The Broken Promise of Synthetic Transcendence

by Aiden Haefer | Banks Media Productions | 01.15.2035

There’s nothing special about the Plummer Tower on the corner of Fountain and Gardner in Hollywood, California. It has a modern design of black windows on a gray grid and stands fifty stories tall. From the outside, you wouldn’t be able to tell it houses one of the biggest lies of the twenty-first century.

Since the technology was developed twenty years ago by Perion Synthetics, more than 78,000 Americans have bought into the slick marketing campaigns of companies like Vitra Synth.

Their message isn’t subtle: by transferring to a synthetic body, you can live forever.

It sounds too good to be true, doesn’t it? Prospective clients are told their consciousnesses are moved to a synthetic body, but how is that even possible? A synthetic body doesn’t have an organic brain. Just because you read out of one book and write to another doesn’t mean it’s the same book.

This is hardly a new question:

In Reasons and Persons, [Derek] Parfit asks the reader to imagine entering a “teletransporter”, a machine that puts you to sleep, then destroys you, breaking you down into atoms, copying the information and relaying it to Mars at the speed of light. On Mars, another machine re-creates you (from local stores of carbon, hydrogen, and so on), each atom in exactly the same relative position. Parfit poses the question of whether or not the teletransporter is a method of travel — is the person on Mars the same person as the person who entered the teletransporter on Earth? Certainly, when waking up on Mars, you would feel like being you, you would remember entering the teletransporter in order to travel to Mars, you would even feel the cut on your upper lip from shaving this morning.

Then the teleporter is upgraded. The teletransporter on Earth is modified to not destroy the person who enters it, but instead it can simply make infinite replicas, all of whom would claim to remember entering the teletransporter on Earth in the first place.

Using thought experiments such as these, Parfit argues that any criteria we attempt to use to determine sameness of person will be lacking, because there is no further fact. What matters, to Parfit, is simply “Relation R”, psychological connectedness, including memory, personality, and so on. [source]

The method of transcendence offered by Vitra Synth is similar to Parfit’s teletransporter idea. A wealthy subject’s brain is copied bit-for-bit into a synthetic chassis. According to VS representatives, the process is “destructive” and leaves the subject’s brain non-viable. Thus, the original human dies while the synthetic human lives on.

But, as Parfit points out, is the new synthetic you really you?

More to the point, by electing to undergo a procedure that renders our brains non-viable, thereby resulting in our own deaths, are we not committing some form of suicide?

For the rich and powerful, the prospect of immortality likely outshines any philosophical questions of self, but for the rest of us, we have to ask ourselves: who are these synthetic humans? Do they share our goals, values, and beliefs?

Is the process of transcendence truly destructive? Or does it simply need to be to prevent Parfit’s paradox (or more likely, uncomfortable questions)? There won’t be any risk of waking up on the wrong table if the original human is killed, right?

* * *

It’s not hard to understand why First Humans groups like Tru Organa and Stop Synthetic Proliferation were created. By allowing companies like Vitra Synth to offer Personhood-as-a-Service, we are setting a precedent that devalues human life and raises synthetic life to a level matching our own.

The kicker? None of it would be possible if customers were more informed.

2015 gave us the dawn of synthetic humans. In 2025, Joseph Perion championed a synthetics rights campaign started by his father, resulting in the granting of personhood to fifteen hundred synthetics. Today, there are almost 80,000 synthetic humans walking around as if they are just like us.

They’re not.

If you’re considering synthetic transcendence, consider this:

  • Your organic body will die, thus you will die
  • A copy (screw what the marketing says) of your consciousness will awake in a synthetic body. You will not be human. You will not be you.

Page 340

Today, I finished what will be my final proofing read-through for Por Vida. I still have to go back and accept the changes (making sure everything I added or deleted needed adding or deleting), but the last of the readthroughs is done. In a few days, I’ll send the manuscript off to a professional to make 100% sure there are no grammar / spelling / stupid errors. 

So close to the end. It’s amazing. 

On the cover front, my graphic designer friend Lauren has started working on turning my cookie cutter Canva idea (the Por Vida cover on the front page) into a unique, kickass cover. Why even bother? Good question. First, I don’t own the copyright for that photo of Sarah Shahi, though I wish I did. Luckily, I’ve got a friend who is going to step in and play the part of Sepideh Ahmadi. Second, as Canva grows in popularity, we’ll probably see hundreds of the same covers polluting the Kindle waters.

It’s always better to have something that stands out in the crowd.

While Por Vida is out of my hands, I’ll be working on the million other things that go into publishing a book, things like descriptions, synopsiseses, blurbs, ads, marketing strategies, rear cover art, witty Facebook posts, and the like.

Or, you know, stupid stuff like this:

 Kodi Smit-McPhee did not give me permission to use his likeness but I'm sure he'd be a total dude about it.

Kodi Smit-McPhee did not give me permission to use his likeness but I’m sure he’d be a total dude about it.

 Same thing goes for Chris Pine, though I imagine he'd be less of a dude and more of a bro.

Same thing goes for Chris Pine, though I imagine he’d be less of a dude and more of a bro.

It passes the time. What do you do to pass the time between my books?

Xronixle Reloaded

Por Vida is currently in the proofing stage, which means I open the Word doc, place a cursor, and hit PLAY on the text-to-speech program. Then I watch and listen to my story. It catches a lot of errors, but it is a slow process, and there’s only so much of it you can take each day.

To pass the time and still feel like I’m writing, I’ve started a rewrite of Xronixle. I hope to have a new version ready by the end of 2017 to coincide with the 10 year anniversary. I’ve always thought Xronixle was an awesome story, but I was not an awesome writer when I published it. Ten years have taught me a few things, so I’d like to beef up that story, add some punctuation, fix the blatant errors, and generally just tone down the nonsense.

Today was a good example of that. Consider the passage:

His fingers moved in small circles around her warm skin, twisting and winding their way higher and higher. X’s hands went flat against her flesh, moved up the sides of her breasts, came together in the middle, and then back down again. He moved his head next to hers and watched the side of her mouth, listening for the quickened breathing that he knew would never come.

And the rewrite

His fingers moved in small circles around her warm skin, twisting and winding their way up her body. He cupped her breasts, squeezed.

No acknowledgement from C.

No quickened breathing.

2004 Daniel had a bad habit of not being direct, and it permeates throughout the story. Cleaning it up just feels like something that needs to be done.

 Less an actual cover and more an example of my lacking graphic design skills.

Less an actual cover and more an example of my lacking graphic design skills.