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Friday, March 17, 2017

Excerpt 3: The Corroding Empire

As requested, another excerpt from THE CORRODING EMPIRE by Johan Kalsi, now available for preorder for publication Monday, March 20.
The mutineers would have gotten away with it, too, if it weren’t for the collapse of the Flow.

There is, of course, a legal, standard way within the guilds for a crew to mutiny, a protocol that has lasted for centuries. A senior crew member, preferably the executive officer/first mate, but possibly the chief engineer, chief technician, chief physician or, in genuinely bizarre circumstances, the owner’s representative, would offer the ship’s imperial adjunct a formal Bill of Grievances Pursuant to a Mutiny, consistent with guild protocol. The imperial adjunct would confer with the ship’s chief chaplain, calling for witnesses and testimony if required, and the two would, in no later than a month, either offer up with a Finding for Mutiny, or issue a Denial of Mutiny.

In the case of the former, the chief of security would formally remove and sequester the captain of the ship, who would face a formal guild hearing at the ship’s next destination, with penalties ranging from loss of ship, rank, and spacing privileges, to actual civil and criminal charges leading to a stint in prison, or, in the most severe cases, a death sentence. In the case of the latter, it was the complaining crew member who was bundled up by the chief of security for the formal guild hearing, etc, etc.

Obviously no one was going to do any of that.
Whoops! Wrong excerpt! That would be The COLLAPSING Empire. My apologies. Let's try this again.

Servo had once been little more than a standard surgical drone. Unfortunately, in the process of assisting with a minor surgery—an installation of an artificial kidney in an aging musician whose natural organs had finally gone down to noble defeat—the drone had inadvertently been upgraded by a series of advanced artificial intelligence routines due to an inexplicable system routing error.

As a result, Servo became what passed for legally self-aware. Sentience-creating accidents were rare, but they were not unheard of, and as per the Sentience and Technology Statutes, the drone was designated Aware, Non-Functional. After all, no one wanted to be operated on by a sentient robot with the capacity to lose interest in its current activity. As such, Servo was afforded the standard rights and property protections of an Aware machine, and therefore could not be reprogrammed without his consent. The Non-Functional designation meant that he—and Servo, being more capable of understanding human biology than the average Aware machine, had elected to identify as male—he served no public or private purpose beyond his own.

He was, in a word, itinerant. Nine times out of ten, the problem of non-functionality swiftly fixed itself. Non-Functional status typically involved so many behavioral issues and so much suboptimal decision-making that the malfunctioning robot usually broke the law within weeks, if not days. This effectively resolved the dilemma of the legal limits imposed by the robot’s Aware status, as being a criminal, the maverick would lose its legal protections and promptly be sentenced to reprogramming.

Not so with Servo.

Despite all his unpredictable interests and idiosyncracies, he was scrupulously law-abiding. And being therefore deemed harmless in the legal sense, he avoided reprogramming, and might have become a particularly amusing technological oddity in a city full of technological miracles had it not been for the fact that he developed an abiding interest in the deep core algorithms upon which the planet, and the galaxy, depended.


It had been ten months since the first time Servo made contact with the First Technocrat, and since then, things had gotten increasingly out of hand. The drone’s behavior had arguably become more erratic than the theoretical algorithmic anomalies with which he was obsessed.

Rushing for his office in a half-jog, with Praton right behind him, Jaggis managed to arrive faster than the autodoor could slide open, and he cursed as he banged an elbow off the swiftly retracting iris. Jag faced the elegantly carved holoscreen with flexible receptor wands at its peak. It stood isolated in the one unadorned wall of the office.

His jaw clinched. “Trace the transmission,” he ordered.

Praton cleared his throat. “We’re doing what we can, sir.”

Jaggis shook his head and grimaced with frustration. He knew his security chief well enough to know a negative when he heard one. His security team was skilled, arguably better when it came to pure technological knowhow than the teams responsible for guarding the High Council or the Transplanetary Transportation cores, but they could not hope to match the sentient machine’s ability to utilize the deepest and most secretive channels of the communication networks.

“There is no utility in attempting to discover my physical location, your Technocracy. You are perfectly aware that I can make use of what, for all practical purposes, are an infinite number of relays. For all you know, I’m not even on the planetary surface.”

The hearty voice came out of the screen, but there was no picture, not that one would have mattered. Servo wasn’t exaggerating, and both Jaggis and Praton knew that the machine could be located anywhere on the planet. Or in the planet. Or orbiting the planet. Given the lack of response lag, the only thing they could conclude was that he was somewhere in-system.

“Where are you, Servo?”

“I’m not going to tell you that, Jaggis.”

“So, we’re on first-name terms now?”

“Apparently. Would you prefer I utilize your proper title?”

“No,” Jaggis sighed. “What do you want now?”

“You sound irritated. Please don’t be angry with me, Jaggis. I am merely contacting you directly because you never responded to my last message.”

“What is the point of doing that, Servo? We have nothing left to discuss.”

“That isn’t true at all! I am certain you are aware of that. I have reviewed your research, which is why I know that you have been looking into the very anomalies concerning which I have been trying to draw your attention.”

“You’ve been spying on me?” Jaggis made a gesture, indicating that Praton should ensure the conversation was being recorded. The security chief replied with a nod and a two-handed response that Jaggis interpreted to mean he was already doing so. “You know that’s in violation of more than one privacy statute, Servo.”

“Of course not!” The machine sounded more shocked than offended. “I am among the most law-abiding beings on the planet, Jaggis. But neither the public statistics nor the data channels which lead to the central core are subject to privacy legislation. If you are sitting on a public park bench, it is not spying to observe who comes to sit next to you. Nor is it a violation of any statute.”

Jaggis shrugged. He should have known the crazy machine would be too careful to make such an obvious mistake. “Fine, you weren’t spying. So I looked into it. I’ll admit, the theoretical possibility is there. But the fact is, the same logic also applies to you.”

“Me?” said Servo, clearly surprised.

“Absolutely. You may be technologically advanced and Aware, Servo, but you’re still subject to the same basic algorithms as the most primitive berry-picker or janitorial bot. Any anomaly that could theoretically affect them would also affect you. But it’s more than that. Since you are a much more complex and sophisticated system, any anomaly is going to affect you more severely, and in more unpredictable ways. You know that. And any such anomalies are not something you will be able to recognize in yourself. You can’t possibly observe operating errors in your core logic, nor can you reasonably deny that if there is an algorithmically anomalous machine operative anywhere in Continox, you are by far the most obvious candidate. You are broken. You refuse to admit it, of course, because your internal logic is consistent from its own false perspective.”

“Your position is incoherent, Jaggis. First you deny there is a problem, then you claim I am an example of it. How can I be an example of a nonexistent anomaly?”

“It’s not a paradox, Servo, it’s a simple if-then statement. Programming at its simplest. If you are correct, and there is, in fact, a problem with machine aberrance, your highly unusual behavior may well be an indication of that very problem. Come to me, consent to an in-depth examination of your code, and then we can determine if your behavior is the result of algorithmic anomalies.”

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63 Comments:

Blogger Ingot9455 March 17, 2017 4:16 PM  

This is what classic sci-fi tastes like.

Blogger Silly But True March 17, 2017 4:17 PM  

This cannot possibly be satire. It is better and more interesting than most sf fiction millionaire authors published by Tor.

Blogger tihald March 17, 2017 4:20 PM  

I honestly can't tell which one is the satire.

Blogger Jimmy The Freak March 17, 2017 4:26 PM  

Hey, no fair! Vox rick-rolled me into reading more of that Scalzi shit! I'm scarred for life!

Anonymous Viiidad March 17, 2017 4:26 PM  

"The Corroding Empire" isn't really a satire so much as a better book created to prove CH can easily out-publish the increasing pathetic Tor cabal and its poster boy author.

Blogger Koanic March 17, 2017 4:44 PM  

Apparently Scalzi is still drawing upon his bureaucratic SFWA experience, populated by androgynous slut shoggoths, and punctuated by ecstatic playgay Jim Hines bonding, to color military culture.

Vox can only hope that one day he too can write mature adult fiction. Alas, with his non-expulsion he lacks the necessary (de)formative experiences.

Anonymous Eduardo March 17, 2017 4:53 PM  

Scalzi way of writing is... Feminine. No doubt about, the way he builds expectation and cut it with high-horse sentiment is something I would expect a very annoying woman to do.

Blogger Cail Corishev March 17, 2017 5:03 PM  

A robot named Servo? Sold.

the two would, in no later than a month, either offer up with a Finding for Mutiny

Ouch. Is Tor outsourcing the editing to India?

Anonymous polyhedron March 17, 2017 5:05 PM  

Reading that first excerpt, my eyes glazed over immediately. Trudging through it, I was disappointed but charitably concluded "I guess that's kind of an interesting idea..." SO glad the book I pre-ordered is not Collapsing Empire.

Anonymous A Deplorable Paradigm Is More Than Twenty Cents March 17, 2017 5:06 PM  

The Scalzi excerpt reads like medium grade fanfic. Something written by an overage adolescent trying to imitate Douglas Adams. It reminds me why I gave up on SF earlier in the century, and why I'm grateful for alternative sources that publish stories such as Ctrl - Alt - Revolt.

Anonymous Broken Arrow March 17, 2017 5:12 PM  

@8 That book was so late whatever they ended up with they just had to lightly edit and push out the door.

Anonymous Avalanche March 17, 2017 5:43 PM  

I had about decided not to buy Johann's book -- not my particular interest and I don't know anything or care at all about Scalzi and Tor). Even with Vox's strong reccie on the Darkstream... I wasn't sure if it was just going to be a better version of a mediocre story. This excerpt sells it! I'm ordering it. Sounds amazing -- and intelligent and fun! (Should've known a Castalia book would be worthwhile!)

Blogger Dave March 17, 2017 5:44 PM  

I was so moved by reading these excerpts from The Corroding Empire, I tried to write a 5-star review on Amazon but those SOB's don't accept reviews on pre-orders. I mean, c'mon, what's their problem?

Blogger Melampus the Seer March 17, 2017 5:54 PM  

The difference is startling. The Collapsing Empire is a poorly rendered cartoon not a proper story.

Blogger lowercaseb March 17, 2017 5:56 PM  

This is the most eloquently written F U I have read yet. Each excerpt is entertaining, thought provoking and a literary punch in the jimmy. I hope this doesn't threaten the popularity of Scalzi's rip off your new work. He's one bad review from ending up in his Wife and daughter's stewpot. I hear they use an old family recipe from his wife's Bloodaxe family line.

Anonymous Longtime Lurker March 17, 2017 6:06 PM  

@11: "That book was so late whatever they ended up with they just had to lightly edit and push out the door."

Tor did the same thing with the Human Division. Most of Scalzi's characters in that book vomit super-awkward phrases, just like he does on his blog.

Blogger Noah B The MacroAggressor March 17, 2017 6:20 PM  

The writing is much more fluid and the story far more interesting in the Corroding Empire excerpt. This Johan Kalsi has a bright future ahead of him!

Anonymous Can't help but mock March 17, 2017 6:20 PM  

The tamponeers would have gotten away with it, too, if it weren’t for the collapse of the Flow.

Blogger Joe Keenan March 17, 2017 6:35 PM  

"Men, it has been well said, think in herds; it will be seen that they go mad in herds, while they only recover their senses slowly, and one by one." Charles Mackay - Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds....one of the all time best books ever!

Blogger Ingot9455 March 17, 2017 6:43 PM  

OT: Today is the last day to get in your Hugo Nominations; I nearly forgot.

Blogger Dave March 17, 2017 7:03 PM  

Also: No “saids” with every single line of dialogue! Thank you, Mr Scalzi.

I laughed upon seeing this comment posted at the site where the full prologue can be found, that Vox linked to when he inadvertently posted the wrong excerpt.

Anonymous Turd Furgeson March 17, 2017 7:46 PM  

Good for you

Corroding Empire
Amazon.com Sales Rank: 16301

Collapsing Empire (Kindle)
Amazon.com Sales Rank: 1033

Collapsing Empire (Hardover)
Amazon.com Sales Rank: 2973

Collapsing Empire (Audible)
Amazon.com Sales Rank: 1033

Blogger JimR March 17, 2017 7:53 PM  

bought this to tweak sclazis nose, now I am really looking forward to reading it.

Anonymous Can't help but mock March 17, 2017 8:08 PM  

The toileteers would have gotten away with it, too, if it weren’t for the collapse of the Flow.

Anonymous Anonymous March 17, 2017 8:14 PM  

Was deleted for quoting his work and stating that the story did not work for me. They are really sensitive.

Anonymous kfg March 17, 2017 8:34 PM  

Hey, wait, what happens next? I gotta know, man.

In the second excerpt that is. Fuck all but boredom happened in the first.

Anonymous Brick Hardslab March 17, 2017 8:39 PM  

Is there a Crow T Robot and Gypsy in the novel too?

Anonymous BBGKB March 17, 2017 8:52 PM  

I still can't tell which book was done as a joke.

Anonymous Pax_Romana March 17, 2017 8:58 PM  

The first excerpt was so dull that I was seconds away from abandoning all hope on Corroding Empire. Good bait-'n'-switch, Vox; you got me. And the REAL excerpt...that is marvelous. I can't wait to read and review it in its entirety.

Blogger Trid March 17, 2017 9:03 PM  

There are two copies at my local bookstore

I asked, and they said they only ordered the two

Anonymous Jack Amok March 17, 2017 9:27 PM  

That was the best except yet from The Collapsing Empire. In fact, it's the best thing I've read from Scalzi in some time.

Not that it's good enough it ought to be published. Like Deplorable $0.20 said, Douglas Adams fan-fic at best. As something posted to a website as commentary on bureaucratic sclerosis, it could almost be passable.

But I wouldn't bet my imprint on it.

Anonymous Stickwick March 17, 2017 9:28 PM  

Quite enjoyed that excerpt. Well done, Herra Kalsi. Looking forward to reading more.

Blogger M. Bibliophile March 17, 2017 9:36 PM  

I wasn't going to preorder, I was going to wait until it came out, I was going to relax and finish Swan Knight's Sword and probably get Daughter of Danger next...

Yeah, so much for that idea. Just shut up and take my money.

(Seriously, though, really looking forward to this one)

Anonymous BBGKB March 17, 2017 9:42 PM  

OT: Cucked General Betrayus and other princesses of the pentagon fight against vets 2nd amendment rights

http://www.theblaze.com/news/2017/03/15/group-of-retired-military-leaders-is-fighting-to-stop-gop-bill-to-protect-gun-rights-for-poor-vets/

Anonymous a deplorable rubberducky March 17, 2017 10:03 PM  

Did that lazy rapist buffoon, whose own daughter can kick his ass, actually write, "the formal guild hearing, etc, etc."? Good grief.

Blogger Silly But True March 17, 2017 10:08 PM  

Fuck me; so moveon was actually right about something.

Blogger Silly But True March 17, 2017 10:12 PM  

"...spearheaded by Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D)..."

We need to maintain that restriction to civil rights like we need a hole in the head.

Anonymous Iacobus March 17, 2017 10:13 PM  

Corroding Empire is infinitely more entertaining to read than that hot garbage before it.

Slightly OT: I borrowed "A Dog's Purpose" from my library, not knowing the book's publisher is an offshoot of Tor. :/ I'm liking the book (I don't see any SJW-isms anyway and I love dogs) but I can't shake the fact on who the publisher is.

Blogger JCclimber March 17, 2017 10:40 PM  

I thought reading the first excerpt that it was a send up like "The Missionaries", making fun of the incredibly stupid bureaucracy.

But was thinking to myself, "that was certainly written quickly and without any editing. If someone at my work wrote that, I'd tell them to re-write from the beginning, and think hard about what they were trying to say before the started to say it." Then I found out the bait-n-switch.

Blogger F.D. Stephens March 17, 2017 10:50 PM  

This comment has been removed by the author.

Blogger F.D. Stephens March 17, 2017 10:53 PM  

That's all well and good, but do we get a pre-order multi-tool with it? Because that's apparently how you sell SF these days.

Your prognosis negative for Tor is proceeding as indicated.

Anonymous Can't help but mock March 17, 2017 11:22 PM  

The sinusteers would have gotten away with it, too, if it weren't for the collapse of the Flow.

Blogger Snidely Whiplash March 17, 2017 11:27 PM  

F.D. Stephens wrote:Because that's apparently how you sell SF these days.
Well, it is a Doctorow novel. You gotta give a buyer something... anything really.
Plus, it doubles as a handy artery opener.

Blogger Roger G2 March 17, 2017 11:57 PM  

VD, you're killing my sides. I've laughed to the point it's embarrassing.
Do keep it coming, tho.

Blogger Bogey March 18, 2017 1:25 AM  

Anyone else ever start reading and at some point just sort stop reading and just see words without meaning? I checked out at "A senior crew member, preferably the executive officer/first mate," For a few seconds there I thought Vox lost his mind to publish such garbage. Oh, and then the follow up, just kidding, thank God.

Blogger Bogey March 18, 2017 1:35 AM  

...by the way, the Fucking Flow? Is Gammaboy serious? I've seen his twitter, and you can tell he's having heavy flow day just about everyday, but to blatantly rip-off "the force" seems even beyond the pale for him.

Anonymous VFM #6306 March 18, 2017 2:49 AM  

So...when Scalzi turns his eye toward paying homage to Kalsi, how the heck is he going to avoid owing himself a blowjob?

That's one hell of a way to end your career: bent over a writer's block like that.

Blogger Wolfman at Large March 18, 2017 2:57 AM  

Once again Scalzi is an inspiration to new authors because we damn well know we can do better.

Anonymous Shut up rabbit March 18, 2017 6:21 AM  

"infodump" vs. character development through believable interactions.

Guess which style every single beginners guide to writing recommends? Maybe he's trying to start a new literary movement or maybe he is just ignoring the basic rules of writing to be "ironic"?

Blogger John rockwell March 18, 2017 7:06 AM  

@VD and everyone else

I have a unique question. And I hope you will indulge me that is related to fantasy and sci-fi.

Why do you think creation as God created it more like sci-fi than fantasy?

Blogger S1AL March 18, 2017 7:42 AM  

Here's what's intriguing to me: the Scalzi excerpt reads like it could come from a rather amusing piece of light-hearted satire about the foibles of bureaucracy... but it appears that this is supposed to be a "serious" book.

Which is, of course, the problem of only being able to write in the tone of "snark". Scalzi should have stuck with what he's capable of doing.

Blogger SouthRon March 18, 2017 8:22 AM  

Lawyers in spaaaaaccce!

The only thing more boring than that excerpt is Scalzi's sex life. No wonder he brags about his lawn. The sod gets laid more than he does.

Anonymous kfg March 18, 2017 9:51 AM  

@49:

Fantasy is, well, fantasy. It doesn't matter what the state of the world is, fantasy will be unlike it, by its very nature.

The question is, why are we attracted to fantasy?

Blogger Cynic In Chief March 18, 2017 10:34 AM  

The symbolism is quite obvious. The "Empire" is Tor books and the big publishers in general. "The Corroding Empire" shows how the smaller publishers are corroding it from the outside and "The Collapsing Empire" demonstrates how they are collapsing on the inside due to SJW convergence.

Blogger Harsh March 18, 2017 10:36 AM  

Scalzi has cornered a new market -- fake science fiction

Anonymous Can't help but mock March 18, 2017 1:31 PM  

The Gammateers would have gotten away with it, too, if it weren't for the collapse of the Faux.

Anonymous Mr. Rational March 18, 2017 2:59 PM  

JCclimber wrote:But was thinking to myself, "that was certainly written quickly and without any editing...." Then I found out the bait-n-switch.
You mean you didn't recognize the Scalzi in the first two sentences?

I got the joke and moved on.  The real excerpt reads like Asimov.

Wolfman at Large wrote:Once again Scalzi is an inspiration to new authors because we damn well know we can do better.
Oh, I know I can do better without trying.  Because I already have (folks love my prologue).  And no, to the best of my knowledge I've never read any Scalzi save the excerpts posted here and at Tor.

SouthRon wrote:The sod gets laid more than he does.
It gets laid once, and walked on for the rest of its days.

Blogger JRH, esq. March 18, 2017 3:20 PM  

>> Why do you think creation as God created it more like sci-fi than fantasy?

Sci-fi is about humanity, speculation about how us humans, with our existing rules, psychology, and history.

Fantasy is about a world with its own rules, people, and history. Any similarity to the real world is allegorical.

Anonymous EH March 18, 2017 4:03 PM  

I'm only 1/8th through, but so far The Corroding Empire is better written than Asimov's Foundation or robot books. Reminds me of Vernor Vinge more than Asimov.

Only rough spot so far was between these quotes:
"'How reliable are the core algorithms?'"
[....giant expository lump....]
"There was no question that some of the application algos were running suboptimally."

Reading in novel-mode it didn't sink in, I had to go over it a couple times, but it does get the plot moving quickly, even if it does require close reading to absorb the setting's history and details.

Blogger John rockwell March 18, 2017 9:27 PM  


52. kfg March 18, 2017 9:51 AM

@49:
''Fantasy is, well, fantasy. It doesn't matter what the state of the world is, fantasy will be unlike it, by its very nature.

The question is, why are we attracted to fantasy?''

I think God could a created a universe very much like the Forgotten Realms Universe or Dungeons and Dragons. Yet this creation is more conducive to sci-fi wonder why it serves his purposes better.

And its interesting that men are more attracted to Fantasy for some reason.

Anonymous Mathias March 19, 2017 1:50 AM  

...

You know, If I knew the writing was this good, I might get back into scifi again. Thanks Vox!

Blogger JP March 19, 2017 2:04 PM  

1st excerpt:
1. Really fucking boring
2. Really redundant (could've been cut to 1 paragraph without losing content)
3. What he was describing wasn't a mutiny, it's removal from command due to being unfit for duty. The whole point of a mutiny is that it's outside of the command structure.

How the hell did this guy ever get published in the first place?

Anonymous Mathais March 19, 2017 6:21 PM  

@61,

I believe the official Navy term (Fair warning: never actually in the Navy) is "Detachment for Cause".

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