BRINGING UP MIKE
by Mark Duncan
What happens when Joe, a teen prodigy makes drastic changes to his life and attends high school incognito with Mike, an artificial intelligence? His plans take an unexpected turn when he buys a neglected former racehorse.
Bringing Up Mike is a tapestry of intertwined stories over the course of a school year: A teen genius who has grown up too fast, a neglected former racehorse, a bereaved couple morning the death of their son, a girl struggling to attend college, and a former mobster determined to be top dog.
Bringing Up Mike is about people given a second chance at happiness and success and how they become better people and mature.
As he walked down the windowless hallway, Joe’s long hair swung back and forth across his back. He swiped his badge against the door lock, entered a PIN code, and it clicked open. He took another gulp of coffee and entered his office.
He touched his finger to the keyboard to scan his fingerprint, then gestured on a touchpad to log in and authenticate himself. The lights went off in the office, the lock clicked in place, and the introduction to The Outer Limits began to play: “There is nothing wrong with your television set. Do not attempt to adjust”
“Mike, very funny. Stop the effects, turn on the lights.”
The office lights flickered on. “Your wish is my command, O Master.”
“Enough with mimicking the genie from Aladdin.”
“I don’t sound like Robin Williams?”
“No, you’re perfect. I’m just not a morning person.” He pulled off his thick glasses and rubbed his brows before placing them back. “Any interesting news or urgent emails?”
“Nothing earth-shattering, the usual please respond immediately emails. Answered the trivial ones, but there are three that need your attention eventually.”
“How’s the meeting going?”
“Started half an hour ago. I gave your update ten minutes ago. Told them how we’d found and neutralized one hundred and four viruses and Trojans, and that if they didn’t like your acronym DAWG for Deleterious Adaptive Web Gladiator, you were open to suggestions. You want to listen?”
“No, I’ll nap for a bit. Wake me if anything comes up.”
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AN INTERVIEW WITH MARK
-What made you want to write?
I’ve been a voracious reader all my life. Over the years, I’ve written two screenplays and several short stories, but it was always a background activity, I always needed to do “real” work to pay the bills. For the last four years, I’ve been republishing out-of-print books as electronic books. Two of the books that I published in 2012 were books on writing fiction, Jack Woodford’s Write and Error and William Knott’s The Craft of Fiction. Both were written by prolific authors and were popular books in their day. I thought that if I could write a successful novel following their advice, it would help me promote their books to a new generation of authors.
What draws you to scifi?
I’ve always loved science fiction. It is a literature of ideas and extrapolation. Bringing Up Mike is about how you would raise / teach an artificial intelligence if it was gradually maturing as a child with an emotional age of six, like Dennis the Menace. The young adult genre seemed particular appropriate for a book of this nature—it is a coming of age story for both Mike and his creator, Joe.
-Name a fun fact you learned researching this book.
I learned a lot about horses. For example, mares can only get pregnant from the spring to the fall. Since they have an eleven-month gestation period, this keeps them from giving birth during the winter. Horses are expressive animals—you just have to be a close observer of their ears, tail, head, and movements to understand their feelings and intent. Like people they have a wide range of personalities. They differ in being herd animals—in the wild you have one stallion that defends the herd from predators and other stallions and a herd of mares. A lead mare decides when the herd will move and to where.
-Which of your characters would you go out for drinks with?
George is modeled after one of my friends who I see regularly. I think Martha would be a real down-to-earth person to visit with, the sort you’d seek advice from; but I’m not sure I’d want to go drinking with her; she could probably beat me at darts and drink me under the table. Martha’s father, Colonel Alexander would have fascinating stories about his Army career, once he loosened up after a few drinks. George’s father, Professor Barber, despite being 82, has a brilliant mind and a lot of insights. He prefers French Burgundy wine, so it could be expensive drinking with him!
-For aspiring writers, any tips?
Read The Craft of Fiction. Follow its advice in defining a plot and characters. Set goals in writing a certain number of words each week. Give copies of your work to friends to read and get feedback as to what they thought or where they were confused. Revise your work accordingly. Your writing will benefit from professional editorial- and copy-editing, and should be done by two different people. Although you may be an excellent writer, there is no substitute for the advice and experience of professional editors.
-Is there a genre you could never write? Which and why?
I’m not particularly interested in horror or explicit sex genres. It takes a certain mindset like Stephen King to do it well. I seldom have nightmares and I have few phobias or fears. I suspect either would help considerably in writing horror novels. While I have the personal experiences to write about young adults with cancer, the memories are still painful. For example, when I was hospitalized with a septic staph infection from an infected central line, I was on a ward where they were wheeling out deceased patients on stainless steel gurneys. It was the closest I’ve ever come to dying.
Mark Duncan grew up in Pasadena, not far from Caltech. In high school he spent Friday and Saturday nights at the Stanford Artificial Intelligence Lab (SAIL) and subsequently was a member of the Homebrew Computer Club. He received his BSEE from UC Berkeley. He has worked or consulted for numerous startups in Silicon Valley. He lives in Menlo Park, near Stanford and has written extensively on emerging technology topics. He enjoys photography, movies, theater, fine dining and has visited all 50 states and much of Europe. He is the author of Bringing Up Mike, www.askmarpublishing.com, email@example.com
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