Maximus 3000

by Bruce Boston

[Editor’s Note: Click on the triptych below to view it at full size.]

Microsoft Word - Bruce_Boston-Maximus_3000_tritych.doc

Bruce Boston is the author of more than fifty books and chapbooks, including the dystopian sf novel The Guardener’s Tale and the psychedelic coming-of-age-novel Stained Glass Rain. His poems and/or fiction have appeared most visibly in Asimov’s SF, Analog, Weird Tales, Strange Horizons, Daily Science Fiction, Realms of Fantasy, Science Fiction Age, the Nebula Awards Anthology and Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror. His poetry has received the Bram Stoker Award, the Asimov’s Readers Award, the Balticon Poetry Award, and the Rhysling and Grandmaster Awards of the SFPA. His fiction has received a Pushcart Prize, and twice been a finalist for the Bram Stoker Award (novel, short story). www.bruceboston.com

What surprising, fascinating stuff can you tell us about the origin, drafting, and/or final version of “Maximus 3000”?

I wanted to write a short cautionary piece about computer intelligence outstripping human intelligence and the resulting consequences. Not a new idea, but I thought that if I could present it in a fresh enough way with interesting language and content, it would be an effective read. I had most of the text down in notes. The question remained: How to make it work on the page.

First I tried it as a prose poem of three paragraphs. I didn’t like it at all that way. It seem clunky and disconnected rather than flowing from one paragraph to the next. Next I changed it to a poem of three stanzas. This was better, but it still didn’t seem to flow the way I wanted and some of the line breaks seemed arbitrary. Finally I figured out what the problem was. The piece didn’t flow because although all three stanzas were being spoken by the voice of a computer, they were very different in tone: one was a set of maxims about “the right tool” in a neutral computer voice; one was the computer providing a description of itself in a voice that could be interpreted as conceited; and the third was the computer clearly taking on human consciousness along with human emotions and foibles, speaking in metaphors in a voice that was both threatening and megalomaniacal.

Since the voices were disparate and were not going to flow smoothly into one another in a linear way, I concluded that each needed its own platform. Yet they still had to be linked. Thus the best way to make the piece work on the page was to present it as a triptych.


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