Welcome to Zvi Zaks, author of A VIRTUAL AFFAIR, as this week’s Blog Ring of Power featured guest. Don’t miss the rest of his interview at:
Part 1 @ Sandra– Monday, Oct. 15
Part 2 @ Dean– Tuesday, Oct. 16
Part 3 @ Terri– Wednesday, Oct. 17
Part 5 @ Em – Friday, Oct. 19
Though I live in the hard-nosed Silicon Valley, speculative fiction has always appealed to me. My favorite genres are science fiction that raises new ideas and, for some reason, vampire stories. In particular, Asimov’s robot stories with the speculation of what a robot mind might be like, Saberhagen’s Berserker series which portrayed implacable opponents of humanity, and the numerous stories about Count Dracula draw my interest, though Dracula’s emphasis on Christian symbols doesn’t resonate with my Jewish heart.
My three published novels follow these themes with some elaboration. Instead of Asimov’s three laws of robotics, the artificial intelligence in my story VIRTUAL AFFAIR has only one rule–to make people happy. How much an AI can know about human happiness is an unanswered question. IMPLAC explores the psyche of a Berserker-type robot in a way Saberhagen never does. And the vampire in TRUE SON OF ASMODEUS shies away from Jewish symbols, not Christian ones.
People who enjoy stories a little off the beaten track that are not written just to appeal to popular tastes should enjoy these novels.
Part #4: About Your Current Work
BRoP: Tell us about your new book and when it is out? Where can people purchase it?
Zvi: A VIRTUAL AFFAIR is about a complex computer program, Barbara, designed to make people happy. Through a series of hopefully plausible events, it–she–becomes self aware, and learns that making human happiness is a lot more elusive than her original creators realized. The novel shows the intricate means she uses. But she is a computer program. What can she know about human happiness?
BRoP: Is there anything new, unusual, or interesting about your book? How is it different from other books on the same subject?
Zvi: Most stories about artificial intelligence portray the AIs as more human than not. While Barbara can feign human reactions, it’s clear she isn’t human. Though she is the main character, the story is never in her POV simply because no human can imagine what goes on in a computer’s ‘mind’.
BRoP: What was your favorite chapter (or part) to write and why?
Zvi: The first chapter, where a depressed man has sex with Barbara, was a lot of fun to write, though afterwards I was embarrassed and toned it down. Spoiler alert–though he completes the act, he’s still depressed.
BRoP: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in this book?
Zvi: I’ve never been completely satisfied with my writing, so if I were to go over it again, there would certainly be parts that I’d want to change. But since it’s been published, I’ve deliberately not read it again.
BRoP: Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
Zvi: Humanity and human happiness are much more complicated than we sometimes realize. No machine will duplicate us in the foreseeable future.
BRoP: Is your book in print, ebook or both?
BRoP: Please let us know where can your readers stalk you:
Making Jack happy is difficult. Barbara develops elaborate and sometimes sneaky ways to help him, and she succeeds. After all, her abilities are awesome. She can hack into any computer and is not above using sabotage and blackmail for the benefit of Jack–and everyone else.
The problem is, though Barbara thinks she knows what’s best for humanity, she isn’t human. This computer program could end up a virtual messiah or doom us all to cheerful mindlessness.