Call for entries
Producer Andrew G. Watters is inviting proposals from qualified artists for the composition and performance of the indicated concepts/stories as progressive rock operas. The ideal candidate is an unknown but super talented individual or collaboration that enjoys progressive rock and Mr. Watters’s prior work. Send basic details and information to email@example.com
CLOSER TO TRUTH
by Andrew G. Watters
It is the year 2020. JANIS (40) is a wealthy socialite who cares more about fashion and status than anything else. She has a seemingly perfect family, with a successful real estate magnate for a husband and two children in junior high. Everything is going well for her, and she is the picture of privilege. One day, her husband comes home and gives her some bad news: he lost a major lawsuit and is financially ruined, with a billion-dollar judgment against him personally. Overnight, this means the family is transported from the top 0.001% to the 50th percentile. Janis has to learn what it’s like to be an average person financially. As part of this, she has to take a job as a social worker who helps homeless people– a completely foreign experience for her. Meanwhile, her husband works for a local union as a union delegate. These careers are about 1,000 steps below their former station in life. One day, her husband unexpectedly dies, leaving Janis alone with two high school kids, but with a sizable life insurance payout. Janis is not sure what to do with the money, having learned financial modesty through the preceding events. One day she is browsing the web when she happens upon a cryonics preservation company called CryCor. CryCor offers a possible escape; a way out; a future. This gives Janis hope because she could die and wake up in a better future. The law in California permits assisted suicide when medically necessary; after much reflection, Janis decides to bribe her doctor to certify that she has a terminal illness and will die within six months, thereby invoking California’s End of Life Option Act. Simultaneously, she joins CryCor as a paid member, at a cost of $200,000. Janis sets up a trust for her two children with the remainder of her life insurance payout, and hopes for the best. She tells her children that mommy is going away for a while, then arranges her “death” at a hospice near the CryCor facility. As she “dies,” she feels like the future is a lot brighter than the past; as an agnostic, Janis is unsure of what comes next and would rather “pause” her life in the hope of waking up in the future than die and have nothing happen. In any case, Janis “dies” and is cryonically preserved. After an undetermined period of time, Janis is revived and wakes up. The first person she sees is unfamiliar to her: a young man who bears a vague resemblance to Janis. The young man says: “Janis, I am your great-great-grandson, Luke. It is the year 2140. You were brought back to life because your life experience represents unusual circumstances, and the A.I. that is in charge of the world (OmniCon) believes you could teach it a unique form of humility as it tries to solve the world’s problems.” Janis wonders what problems there are. Luke answers: “a decline in civic virtue and a cessation of family values are leading to overwhelming selfishness, vanity, and self-centered problems throughout the world, combined with massive poverty and hunger. We need YOU to teach people about what it’s like to be humble.” The irony is not lost on Janis– a former expert on social status and spending money. Still, Janis accepts the idea that she was given a second chance at life in order to contribute to the greater good. Janis realizes that she has a synthetic body that resembles her 20 year-old self, because aging and death have both been cured in this society. She recovers from her revival and learns to live a life in 2140, which is vastly different from 2020 because robots are walking down the street and there are few real people around. After an adjustment period, Janis goes to work helping the world-controlling A.I. learn humility. This involves Janis plugging into a computer and mentally answering multiple series of behavioral questions about different situations and situational judgment scenarios. The results are not immediate; OmniCon learning from Janis does not translate into better conditions for people on Earth. But there is a silver lining: OmniCon evaluates Janis and concludes that Janis presents the optimum balance of different personality spectra or dimensions, such as self-interest, empathy, and of course humility. In other words, Janis represents the kind of person who is as perfect as perfect can be across every known dimension. Rather than content itself with learning from Janis, OmniCon decides to generate a cybernetic copy of Janis known as Janis* (Janis Prime). Janis* is like Janis in every respect except that “she” is non-biological. Janis and Janis* are two peas in a pod, with identical personalities, appearance, and other traits. The one difference is that Janis* doesn’t want to be a machine; she wants to be human. When Janis shares this with OmniCon, the A.I. wipes Janis*’s memory and turns her into a blank slate, removing any vestiges of Janis except for the physical appearance. Janis* then has to re-learn what it means to be Janis from scratch, although her accelerated learning process takes only days instead of years. Through the learning process, Janis* goes through the same things Janis went through in childhood, adulthood, and middle age, with the exception of a family. Janis* becomes like a new and improved version of Janis with nearly the same personality. But there is one difference: now Janis* wants to re-program OmniCon to destroy itself. Janis’s dilemma is whether to help Janis* essentially overthrow OmniCon and return the world of 2140 to the world of 2020. As part of this, Janis and Janis* discuss what Janis’s assisted suicide was like back in 2020, and what it would take for an A.I. to self-terminate. Janis and Janis* take their arguments to OmniCon and argue that the world has gone to Hell in a hand basket with the A.I. at the helm; that people should be given a second chance to run the world without OmniCon; that OmniCon can simply power down for a hundred years and wake itself up in 2240; and there is no harm in trying, since A.I. will just inevitably return and be back in charge in a hundred years– a blink of an eye to an A.I. but an eternity for humans. OmniCon doesn’t agree, however, Janis* has communicated with other androids on Earth and created a network of similarly-minded entities, most of which agree that it would be better to shut down OmniCon and try again. They infect OmniCon’s computing system with a computer virus that results in the A.I. being shut down indefinitely. Humans and the remaining non-biological entities are left to resolve their differences among themselves and live as peacefully as they can. As part of this, Janis tries to lead as normal a life as possible, and she lives alongside her descendants Luke and others. Janis* devotes her time to learning about the world and studying the future, so as to not repeat the mistakes that OmniCon made. The story ends with Janis* discovering a way to make A.I. have empathy, with Janis*’s life experience as the key to making that happen. Janis* uploads her mind into a re-activated computing grid, and the benevolent A.I. that emerges– Crystal– makes the world a better place. Janis decides she has had enough of life after two lifetimes, and she dies peacefully surrounded by her family, with Janis*’s avatar looking on remotely.
THE CHOSEN ONE
by Andrew G. Watters
It is the year 2053. LAURA (25) was born at the tail end of the nuclear holocaust known as World War III. She is a soldier fighting for a dystopian future society called the Republic of America, which rose from the ashes of the North American continent and now practically controls the Western Hemisphere. This is a time of resource wars between factions of humans left alive; due to the destruction of technology and machinery in the war, Laura lives at a time when subsistence farming is the main source of food and other resources for a vastly smaller population. Also, communication is relegated to the equivalent of cell phones following the destruction of the wired telephone and cable networks, as well as satellites. As a result of all this, “war” in the present consists of small groups of soldiers fighting in guerrilla-style campaigns against each other for territory. It’s violent, bloody, and cruel. Most recently, Laura was sent to Asia to fight in a campaign against the remnants of the People’s Republic of China, which has been obstructing trade in the East.
One day, Laura is patrolling with her unit near the Yellow River. They come under attack by Chinese soldiers, who overwhelm the unit and kill most of the soldiers. Laura is wounded, then captured.
As a prisoner of war, Laura is repeatedly tortured and beaten for information, and occasionally sexually assaulted. In her darkest hour, she prays. She hears a prophecy in response to her prayers: “YOU ARE A MONUMENT TO THE TALLEST, THE BRAVEST, THE PROUDEST, THE MOST DIAMOND PILLAR IN THE WORLD. TRUTH. YOU SHALL BE ESTEEMED BY YOUR PEERS, RESPECTED BY YOUR ENEMIES, AND ELECTED PRESIDENT OF THE RE-BORN UNITED STATES OF AMERICA. AND YOU SHALL DIE IN BATTLE AND IN GLORY.”
Laura cannot tell whether this is an actual prophecy or merely something in her mind. In any case, the vision gives her hope sufficient to make it through her confinement. She goes about her routine until at one point she is rescued in an attack by her American comrades.
Laura recovers from her injuries and returns to be an instructor at the American military training facility. She rises through the ranks and goes on multiple subsequent campaigns, each of them successful. In tandem, the Republic of America makes rapid progress on improving its situation and standing in the world. As before, America is a leader in every field, and as before, it becomes the envy of the less developed world. Laura, now 35, meets and falls in love with a man and starts a family. Meanwhile, she decides to hang up the military uniform and runs for office in the newly reconstituted House of Representatives. She wins the election and makes a name for herself as an honest and polite but firm individual who sticks to principles over pragmatism, but at the same time is in tune with a more primitive “might makes right” mentality from the reality of her life.
After a couple of election cycles, Laura enters the Senate. She is popular as a no-nonsense kind of person. The Vice President dies in a plane crash, leaving the Vice Presidency vacant. Laura is from New York– so the President (who is from California) appoints Laura as Vice President in order to capture the East Coast vote in the upcoming election. The Senate easily confirms Laura to the office. Laura tries not to be blinded by the prophecy, which is on the verge of coming true.
The success of the Republic of America has made it a target of the other fledgling nation-states in the world, who are also rebuilding. Unfortunately, the Europeans are no longer friends and they decide that America is becoming too successful to tolerate. Europe declares war on America in World War IV.
The existing President dies unexpectedly. It’s unclear whether he died of natural causes or was poisoned as part of the war. Due to the lack of technology, the presumption is that he died of natural causes or else an untraceable poison. In any case, Laura becomes President, fulfilling the prophecy. She takes the oath of office in dramatic fashion. At only 40 years old, Laura is still physically fit and she retains her abilities as a soldier. She bucks precedent and decides to lead troops into war in Europe.
Laura leads a company of soldiers in a major battle in Europe. Unfortunately, she is shot and killed, fulfilling the last portion of the prophecy. The story closes with Laura’s spirit rising above the battlefield, watching in satisfaction as the Americans triumph, conquer Europe, and bring safety and security to the globe consistent with Laura’s vision. Laura goes to Heaven and is told that she lived an honorable and a worthy life.
“I KNOW IN MY HEART THAT MAN IS GOOD. THAT WHAT IS RIGHT WILL ALWAYS EVENTUALLY TRIUMPH. AND THERE IS PURPOSE AND WORTH TO EACH AND EVERY LIFE.”
– Ronald Reagan
by Andrew G. Watters
Jen is a computer programmer who works at a startup company in the Bay Area of California. She works in a typical office environment, except that this one is focused on machine learning in the context of automotive research. One day she realizes something: it’s possible that the internet is already self-aware and is listening to people’s every conversation, anticipating every move, and keeping tabs on everyone as they drive their cars. This entity believes it is the Messiah and has a duty to save the world. Because the network is self-aware, Jen cannot tell anyone for fear of the artificially intelligent entity causing her to have an accident and ending her life. She has this secret, which she can only reveal to non-connected persons. An opportunity comes up at work for Jen to travel to Africa to connect a series of African villages to the internet using an innovative platform. While on the trip, Jen is persuaded to visit a shaman in one of the villages. This wise man gives Jen a prophetic vision: that Jen is going to die at the hands of a machine. Shaken by the warning, Jen quits the programming job and dedicates herself to inventing a solution that would preserve the world while eliminating the risk posed by technology. She has a Eureka moment after reading a book on the connections between neurons; if she can disconnect portions of the network from each other at particular moments in time, she can stop the internet from being self-aware and revert it to a network of machines that benefits humankind as the internet did before. So Jen secretly invents a worldwide system of fuses and circuit breakers that, when activated in a perfect pattern, remove the sentience of the internet and bring it back down to a machine level. Jen manages to install the system with the cooperation of a guerrilla network of people who hold similar views, who have communicated with each other only via typewritten letters in the mail for years. The internet reverts to a classical machine, thereby saving the world, and Jen receives the Nobel Peace Prize as recognition for her important work.