Today I am interviewing Ken MacLeod, author of sixteen science-fiction novels, about his latest: The Corporation Wars: Insurgence, second book of the Corporation Wars trilogy.
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DJ: Hey Ken! Thanks for agreeing to do this interview!
For readers who aren’t familiar with you, could you tell us a little about yourself?
Ken MacLeod: Thanks for the interview! I’m from Scotland, with a background in science and IT and an abiding interest in political and philosophical ideas. My first novel, The Star Fraction, was published in 1995. Since then, I’ve written SF that tends to swing from near-future social and political speculation to far-future space opera and back.
DJ: What is The Corporation Wars: Insurgence and the rest of the trilogy about?
Ken: Well, the first volume is Dissidence, the second is Insurgence and the third – due to be published September 2017 – is Emergence. They’re about robots who are ten years into exploring an extrasolar system about twenty-four light years away, and they’re set about a thousand years in the future. The robots have all been manufactured on-site by a relatively tiny information-packed probe that bootstraps machinery up from local resources. The very long-term aim is to terraform an earthlike planet and populate it with thousands of colonists who died of natural causes back in the Solar system, and who volunteered to have their brain-states, memories and genomes stored to be rebooted millennia later. The whole mission is run by AI versions of corporations, called DisCorps in the story, which in turn are answerable to an AI module that implements the directives of the world government back on Earth, a global democracy called the Direction.
Quite by accident, some of the little robots trundling about on a moon develop self-awareness, and start asserting their own interests. This contingency has been planned for long in advance. The Direction doesn’t trust AIs with control of weapons, so dealing with robot revolts is outsourced to law companies that have the stored minds of veterans of the Last World War – all of whom are in the Direction’s eyes terrorists and war criminals, now given a chance to ‘serve their death sentence’ and earn a clean slate by fighting in robot and machine bodies. For training and R&R they live in immersive VR environments that run at a thousand times clock speed. Unfortunately some of the veterans fought on opposite sides, and jump at the chance to fight each other again. Complications ensue. Continue reading