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Monday, August 13, 2012

A bit of real history added to sci-fi.

The Prince and the Program (ISBN 1613725701, Dreamspinner Press) is a romance between an immortal Prince of Hel and one of the greatest mathematical minds of the 20th century. If it sounds rather strange, well, I guess it is. A little bit of background on our characters:

Mordred Pendragon, bastard son of Arthur and Morgan Le Fay, was granted the gift (curse?) of immortality over a thousand years ago by a sentient mutagenic virus. As such, he has power—Magical and secular—in Hel, the Underworld, which its inhabitants call "The Sunless Planes". But three months ago—May 2012 by Earth’s calendar—Mordred royally (how else) Fucks Up. Now, exiled to Canada for seven years, he has to find a job, and a way to clear his name so he can go back home.

As for Alan Turing (the real, historical Turing), the book’s prologue is sufficient introduction, I think, along with the fact that Turing’s groundbreaking concept of “Artificial Intelligence” remains the stuff of Science Fiction and idle speculation.

Until, in The Prince and the Program, on the other side of the Atlantic, something interesting happens....
Prince Mordred finds a job at a tech startup founded, in part, by the ghost of Alan Turing. Or a Demon, pretending to be Alan. Or an AI calling itself “Alan”. In part because of a recognition that goes far deeper than conscious memory, and in part because of an inescapable intellectual fascination with Alan's mind, Mordred finds himself falling in love. And the dark prince is no shrinking violet, to let events take their course—he goes for what he wants with all the intensity at his command, and damn the consequences. Except that in this case, the consequences are far more severe than a broken heart. For if Mordred gives his body to the wrong entity, it will enslave Mordred’s soul, along with the souls of all mankind.

The book explores the mating of Magic and Science(fiction). This, of course, requires a lot of out-of-the-box thinking, which is precisely the theme this month on Guys Like Romance, Too! And a lot of times this out-of-the-box thinking leads me to take a simple premise, like Vampires, to their most logical and most absurd conclusion. The nature of the “immortality” virus causes it—and any creature Symbiotically bound to it, like Mordred is—to be ever hungry for new genetic material. Given its teratogenic properties, the virus will even supply its host with useful things, like fangs, to harvest new genetic material. But blood is not the only carrier of DNA.... So, to avoid uncontrolled, violent mutations (which have a tendency to occur in the most god-awfully awkward circumstances) most of the Symbiot-ridden immortals are very, very careful of what they eat. Or sleep with.

There's also the Cyborgs, originally manufactured as sex-toys by House Kamigawa, the Japanease consortium of immortals in the Sunless Planes. And the Securitates Arcanarum—the "Inquisition"—a group of Amazonian women that police Magical activity on Earth. And all the trials and pitfalls of being part of a startup—strange bosses, bounced cheques, shoestring budgets and tech that might just get stolen by the big kid on the block. And Faerie Ambassadors of the Unseelie Court that happen to be relatives. Relatives that keep trying to get certain Princes laid….

Oh, there’s also the Easter Eggs—the book contains a number of codes, cyphers and puzzles that require some basic arithmetic and knowledge of programming (or pencil, paper, and patience) to decode. A $1000 award is waiting for the first person to find the Golden Egg, now, or ten years from now.

And at the end of the book, when one takes away all the drama and the Sci-Fi and the Magic, Prince Mordred is left with the core of an idea that moves him deeply: Alan Turing. I wrote The Prince and The Program because I was furious, and furious in the worst way possible—helplessly. So many more people know about Alan’s contributions today—they didn’t when I started writing—but certain wrongs cannot be righted for all the wishing in the world. In the end, Mordred and Alan’s story—regardless of what they may build together—is one more wish in the ocean of regret we call history. Still, somewhere, somehow, a Faerie might be listening. So won’t you come a-wishing with me?

A native of Toronto, Aldous Mercer enjoys martinis and relaxing on the beac-ha! No. Aldous Mercer is a workaholic with a penchant for numerical mind games and caffeinated beverages. He uses his degree in Engineering to ensure that none of the spaceships in his books have cubic pressure-vessels. In real life - and much to his manager's chagrin - he always annotates serious engineering drawings in iambic tetrameter.
Visit Aldous at his web site:

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