Tuesday, June 29, 2010

≟Love

Tada! The final installment of the serial ≟Love was earlier today. ≟Love was written as a series of Tweets, and self-publishing it was a bit of an experiment; I am curious about its presentation. As a reader, how did the Twitter format work for you? I imagine that the experience might be slightly different depending on if you followed the story on Twitter, on Facebook, or this blog site. Um, you did follow it, right?

What I noticed over the month was that some folks missed the opening explanation that ≟Love was a serial, so they weren't sure if they were reading personal updates, excerpts from a larger work in progress or something else. As the author, I noticed that folks on Facebook seemed more likely to comment on a particular installment of the story than Twitter folks (but then again I have 83 followers on Twitter and 259 on Facebook).

As a publisher, scheduling ≟Love was relatively easy, although the timing threw me a little because I didn't figure out what time zone the software I was using was in. It also required a lot of cutting and pasting between the manuscript and the Twitter software. Not so bad, but I did want about an hour's worth of uninterrupted time to do correctly (which I don't always get, so I found myself going back and tweaking the timestamps). I really appreciate what Nathan Lilly of Thaumatrope does much more after doing this with just one serial.

I do really want to know: Did you see ≟Love on Twitter, Facebook, this blog, or Google Buzz? Did the story format work for you? Was following the story fun, or was it noise cluttering up your social networking?


In case you're joining in at the end, here's the entire story.




≟Love


Once I power up, I say, "I love you," and step toward Sara. She turns me off. When power returns, there's a mirror. Requited love!

Love at first reboot. The mirror shatters when I try to hug it. Why does Sara turn me off every time her programming works?

Reboot. This time a Mylar balloon reflects my robot body. So shiny. So huggable. I'm so happy, until it pops.

Sara helps me smooth out the balloon. My image isn't _quite_ how I remember it. But it's close and I'm programmed to adapt.

Sara's assistant, Ralph, enters. I can see in his face he loves her. Strange; she doesn't love him, but she hasn't rebooted him.

"How long has Ralph been running his programming?" I ask. Sara smiles. "Thirty-four years." That's forever in CPU cycles.

I gently brush Mylar and my image ripples. "Will I love my balloon for as long as Ralph has loved you?" I ask. Ralph turns me off.

I power up remembering Ralph's angry face. He's gone and Sara's watching. I still hold my balloon and I murmur calming words to it.

Sara points to my balloon. "Are you in love?" I blow it a kiss, and my image kisses, too. "How could I not?" I ask.

Sara asks, "How did you know Ralph loves me?" This is the woman who programmed my body language, pattern recognition, and sensors?

I'm compiling a file about love for Sara. Robots must be better at love than humans, or else she'd have Ralph doing this.

3AM. Ralph enters the lab. "OK, kid," he says, pretending not to be angry, "We're going to do some field testing."

I power up in a room with billowing canvas walls. I stand but can't walk. Blinking lights and Tesla coils tower behind me.

Ralph holds my balloon and a pair of scissors! "You work for me," he says, "or else." If only my legs could do more than stand.

I stand in a circus tent. The flashing sign above my Tesla shrine reads, "Confirm your Love with The Amazing, Electro Eros-o-Meter!"

Usually my customers are in love. Ralph lets me see my balloon at the end of the day if I lie to the ones who aren't.

I've just seen my first clowns. A pair of them came in. They're in love. Even when they club each other. I think.

My fifth couple today. She loves him, and he wants to _own_ her. Ralph tries to refund their money as they storm away.

It is clear to me from the random sample of couples Ralph brings in that he has no hypothesis about love.

Tonight, Ralph says, "Kid, soon we'll run away from the circus. It's been fun, but you're ready to work for millionaires."

He was telling me the truth; the circus really _was_ a field test. I want to go back to Sara and the lab.

Ralph asks me, "Why does Sara love you?" He stomps out when I tell him she doesn't love me, she loves her work.

Sara, Ralph, and my customers. They say they want to know about love, but not really. Is my programming a giant falsehood?

Love a falsehood? Not when my balloon is hanging from a far circus tent corner. "Together," I say, "we'll show them love is real."

My legs won't walk, but my arms, hips and spine still work. I'm programmed to adapt -- I walk on my hands to where my love waits.

Using Hooke's Law to calibrate handsprings for love. It's the only way I can think of to get my balloon from the tent corner.

My arms aren't designed for bouncing. I've almost snagged my balloon with my useless left foot. So. Close. Just. One. More.

I've miscalculated and the tent has collapsed. Where's my balloon? Over angry voices and shorting Tesla coils I hear Ralph shouting.

A glint in the canvas near my foot! I rescue my balloon from the tent folds. Then infrared light flares and Ralph yells, "Fire!"

The tent is on fire. My left foot is caught in canvas. I'm holding my balloon in one hand and pulling myself forward on my elbows.

I shake my hips and wiggle my foot lose. When I crawl out from underneath the tent, I see Ralph and clowns with a fire hose.

My Tesla shrine is in flames. Time to handspring out of here! Ralph sees me and grabs for the fire hose nozzle. That can't be good.

Something bangs and the circus lights and motors near us stop. By firelight, the head clown and Ralph wrestle over the nozzle.

It's hard to walk on my hands when one of them is a fist holding my balloon. Be strong, my love. I'll get us out of here.

Water mists my arms as I hand-walk away. Sara programmed me to not get wet. I wish she'd made me watertight.

Clown scuffle continues as I leave. I'm skidding on mud. I want to look everywhere, but I have to give walking highest CPU priority.

I've hidden myself in the shadows of a powered down carousel. By the glow of my IR system, I open my palm - my balloon is in scraps!

I try to smooth out the biggest balloon scrap and it tears. The crinkled and muddy Mylar doesn't reflect our love like it used to.

Why wasn't I made with pockets the way humans are? All I have is a DVD-ROM drive tray. I can't read my love like a disk.

My drive tray is damaged and won't close. I spend many thousands of CPU cycles editing and re-editing what I should have done.

My balloon hangs from my open disk drive tray. Power returns and the carousel lights up. I have to get back to the lab and Sara.

Wonderful! On the far side of the carousel is a giant balloon with a basket underneath. "Size isn't everything," I reassure my love.

I hand-walk toward the big balloon. It doesn't reflect anything. Perhaps it's in love with itself?

I've just flipped into the basket when I hear Ralph shout, "There it is!" I fling sandbags at him.

Ralph's upturned face grows smaller as I rise above the circus. "Hang on," I say to my old balloon, still held in my DVD drive tray.

When the big balloon gets tired and I land in a corn field, the cars that have been chasing stop and people pour out of them.

Sara and a huge crowd of people run up to me. "Got that love file saved?" she asks. I was right; she does love her work the most.

Sara can restore me to a save point from before the circus, or I can remember everything. I ask for pockets and a tray fix.

Back at the lab, Sara stops at a door. "There's someone I want you to meet." It's a younger me, with another balloon.

We wave at each other. "What is in your drive?" he asks. I have much to tell him. Sara smiles, leans back and takes notes.
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