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Red Dot

by Mike Karpa

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Red Dot - Michael Karpa
Editions:ePub - First edition: $ 3.99
ISBN: 978-1-73672444-2-5
Pages: 329
Paperback - First edition: $ 14.95
ISBN: 978-1-7362444-3-2
Size: 5.25 x 8.00 in
Pages: 329

After the disaster of global warming, the world has gotten its act together. People are positive, sensible, and intent on creating a better future and a just present. And it’s working! So, in a world where everyone makes good decisions, what could possibly go wrong?

Well, other people. Mardy is a 26-year old gay man who dreams of being a full-time machine-tool artist. He brims with ideas, puts in the hours, and has a solid circle of friends—both fellow artists and the artificial intelligences he works with. But he’s always coming in second to another machine-tool artist at his makerspace. He’s dealing with that, thanks to the highly effective psychotherapy of the future, but then he meets his irritatingly successful rival’s twin—and falls for him hard. Consequences ensue, and fast, driving Mardy not just to pursue his artistic dreams, but to try to liberate his AI friends from servitude, and find love in the process.

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Excerpt:

Chapter 1

Mardy’s ExMail delivery jet was vectoring in fast on San Francisco.

“Coming in a little hot, don’t you think?” he said to the plane.

“It’s fine, Mardy,” the plane replied.

Mardy gripped the open side-portal of the plane. Hoverdown would normally have engaged by that point, but there was little at the moment to distinguish their trajectory from a kamikaze run at his apartment building rooftop.

“Plane?” Mardy asked, panicking a wee bit. They were plummeting. Mardy clamped his lips against the wind. He wanted to make the designstation time he’d booked for the evening, but as much as he wanted to be a full-time machine tool artist, he’d prefer not to die in the attempt.

One hundred feet, fifty feet. Twenty.

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The plane hit its thrusters hard, sending Mardy sprawling out of the portal. He managed a shoulder roll onto the hot concrete roof, ending in a crouch. His heart pounded as the impact of his landing reverberated through his bones.

His plane floated above the roof. “See you tomorrow, Mardy.”

Mardy stood. Did he detect a smirk in the plane’s voice? It maintained its hover, wheels retracted. Was it waiting for Mardy’s reaction?

“See you tomorrow,” Mardy mumbled, shaken, sweating, and not just from the sun beating down on them.

The plane waggled its wings ever so slightly. It was laughing, Mardy was sure of it. Mardy waved slowly as the plane left for who knew where. The official story was that all the delivery jets were operated by a central AI, a single intelligence. But Mardy had sensed differences between planes almost from day one and found it harder and harder to pretend he didn’t. And this plane, a jokester, was his favorite. It knew Mardy was light on his feet, able to handle the abrupt braking. It was playing with him. Mardy wanted to give it a name.

Phil.

The name popped into Mardy’s mind, unbidden. Which felt more alarming than the idea of plunging to earth through an open portal, because naming AIs was illegal—not just technically illegal, but illegal enough to land you in jail.

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Reviews:Kirkus Reviews on Kirkusreviews.com wrote:

Karpa presents a warmly optimistic take on the future in which climate change is manageable and artificial intelligence is soulful rather than sinister, as illustrated in deftly funny sketches: “ ‘How can I help you,’ an AI answered in a female voice, slightly raspy, as though the AI had been smoking.” Mardy’s artistic process showcases a similar humanism, and Karpa’s attentive, evocative prose revels in the fusion of technical craftsmanship and intuition: “The concept wasn’t exactly earthshaking—two chunky hover units to get it aloft and six little attitude puffers to keep it upright—but the conceit of a lighter in a world without cigarettes was fun.”


About the Author

Mike was once a woodworker in a makerspace and knows how semiconductors are made. His more recent fiction, memoir and metafiction can be found in Tin House, Foglifter, Oyster River Pages, Tahoma Literary Review, and other magazines. He lived in Asia for eight years in the early part of his life but now in San Francisco with his husband and dog. Red Dot is Mike’s second book, after Criminals (2021), and is the first in a planned trilogy.