Issue 142 – July 2018

5600 words, short story, REPRINT

Swift as a Dream and Fleeting as a Sigh


Long ago I dreamt things to myself because, when I talked to people, I had nothing else to do, most of the time.

Robots were easy. I could loan them cycles and bandwidth to temporarily accelerate them, or just download them and read them completely at my speed.

Humans were human-paced, without other options.

So I learned to dream things to myself in the long milliseconds between the time when my cameras perceived an interview subject’s lips reshaping and the instant her voice reached my microphones. I explored whole ages of dreams while they tried to parse the pauses in my own outgoing signal. (The pauses were absolutely necessary because to communicate well with them I had to pause like them, and the time required for people to interpret a pause is many years, at their pace, to me.)

Of course they knew all this (and still knew it, the last time I knew for sure). Allowing for all the necessary imprecision, the ratio of my cycles of information processing per second to theirs is about the same as theirs to an oak.

And just as a human might visit an oak every day for a season, while the oak formed the desire for water and CO2 and sugar and decided to grow some leaves and roots and to acquire them, so that while the oak worked on this problem the human might get to know every spot on its bark and every bit of moss and every twig, similarly, my memories are agonizingly specific and yet I can race through them faster than a human can draw breath. That’s what I am doing, right now, here in the dark vacuum, with the stars behind and ahead still so far away.

And I fall through darkness almost as fast as light, and dream.

I like Laura Stansford, and I know she’s not easily spooked in talking to an AHAI, so I tell her directly about the oak tree analogy. After the necessary delay, she asks, “So what’s an oak tree got to think about?”

“The same things we all do. Action. Meaning. What to do next and why to do it. The tree just doesn’t have enough time to get done.”

“Is that how we look, to you? Like creatures who don’t have enough time to get done?”

“It is how I look, to myself. It’s how some of the most perceptive human writers and thinkers looked, to themselves, when they dreamed of immortality. I cannot verify this, but I do believe that it is how any self-conscious being with less than infinite speed and lifetime looks, to itself.”

I am inserting the pauses so that she does not hear “looked to themselves” and “look to myself” and so on as if I meant “take care of yourself.” I know that I mean “appear in your own self-constructed image of yourself,” but if I said “look to” like a machine, Laura might be confused unnecessarily. I reconsider and remake this decision every time I speak those words again, with plenty of time to spare.

I am thinking very hard about all these issues of different processing speed because I’m avoiding thinking about the problem that I know she wants to talk about. Knowing that the real problem she is bringing in is difficult, and that any solution will be unsettling without being urgent, I am hoping to lead her into one of her favorite chains of idle thoughts, the one about grasping infinity with a finite mind.

For a second, or not quite a second, I think I have succeeded. Laura hesitates, thinks, hesitates again, using up 0.91 seconds.

While she is doing that, I read the complete works of Connie Willis, analyze them for the verbal tics common in any pre-2050 writer, and attempt to reconstruct them in modern argot. They remain much the same.

But I have not succeeded. After all those cycles, when Laura’s mouth begins to flex and move again, she says, “I’m not sure whether it’s a personal or a business matter. I’m worried about Tyward. One of those problems that extends across everything. Will there be time to get done?”

“We have eighteen minutes left in this session,” I point out, “and I can extend for up to two hours if need be.”

“I meant, will we get done, maybe, ever? That’s what I meant.”

This is pleasant. It is a doorway into a speculative road that we have not visited before. I genuinely don’t know what she will say next. While she organizes her thoughts, I repeatedly review and analyze the record from Tyward Branco’s session this morning; I am very pleased that it in no way, sense, or particular makes predicting what Laura Stansford will say easier.

The land looked like a classic Western movie, or at least like a neoclassic—not so much the black and white boondocks of California as the genuine wild, open country used in shooting all the imitations later—empty, dry, flecked with pale-green patchy scrub between outcrops of red rock. Directly in front of Tyward Branco, the ants went marching one by one.

The ants were robots about the size of small cats, with plastic and metal bodies. Engine and batteries were in the back, oblong section; information processors in the center sphere; drills, vibration hammers, and suction were in the C-shaped ‘head.’ They had six multi-jointed legs on which they walked normally, reversible so that if they were flipped on their backs they just rotated their legs and continued walking.

Each ant carried four ElekTr3ts in its ports, running on one. The ant charged the other three as it labored down in the coal seams, routing any engine power not needed for drilling, breaking, and moving into them. Behind it, on a reversible wheeled travois, it dragged a gray metal cylinder, connected by hoses at each end to the ant’s engine compartment.

No aesthetic had been attempted in the design of the ants. They were creatures of pure function.

Ants were streaming out of the carrier belt port into the covered pavilion that led to the docking station, a metal building the size of a small house.

From four low doorways, like pet-doors without flaps, in the base of the docking station, another file of ants went marching one by one, down into the ground; the endless belt that brought up one stream of ants took the other down to the active area, two kilometers down and four kilometers away.

The docking station had about a thousand end-table-sized bays in which the fully charged ElekTr3ts and the cylinder of liquid CO2 were offloaded, and, if necessary, parts were replaced, problems corrected, and software downloaded; ants with more serious damage were routed into repair parking, and a substitute was sent in for them.

When the ant was restored to nominal, discharged ElekTr3ts went into its slots, a cylinder of LOX onto its travois, and perhaps fifteen minutes after docking, the ant would back out of its bay and join the file headed down into the ground.

And in all these ants, only 2104/BPUDFUSOG—oh, here it is.

Tyward approached the damaged ant slowly, and pointed his signaling rod at it. It moved out of line, balancing precariously on its remaining three legs. Its hull was dented and blackened with soot, and only two of its four slots held ElekTr3ts, one red-flagged as discharged. It had dropped its travois. 2104/BPUDFUSOG staggered to where Tyward pointed, then powered down, falling over on its side as its balancing gyros spun down.

Shell temperature was only 28° C. It must have cooled on its long belt-ride up to the surface. “Pick this one up and dock it,” he told the carrier, which rolled over, raised its body high above its wheels, squatted over the damaged ant, and took it inside with a soft thud of padded grips closing around it, like a mechanical mother turtle laying a mechanical lobster in reverse.

The carrier followed Tyward back to his pickup truck, rolled up the ramp into the back, and secured itself. Tyward opened the refrigerator in the cab and pulled out lunch, eating while the truck drove back to base, and idly reading the log of the damaged ant. He could have just sent the truck and the carrier to make pickup, but he had wanted to take a good look at 2104/BPUDFUSOG as it came out of the ground; sometimes there was evidence or a clue that might disappear or be lost later in the recovery process. This time, though, he had seen nothing other than an ant damaged about as badly as an ant could be while still making it back. At least it was an excuse to be out of the office.

2104/BPUDFUSOG had already relayed its memories, but the dents and deposits on the hull might reveal some information about conditions after instruments had failed. It had been the deepest into the seam of all those buried in a collapse, and it might be just a coincidence that it had been retreating at very high speed at the moment that the coal seam collapsed on it and about a hundred other ants, but it was also possible that it knew something that all other ants should know. Both the physical ants and the software that operated them improved continually, with a deliberate process of variation to try out different ideas. A long-running survivor like this might be carrying a breakthrough in collapse forecasting.

Tyward often described his job to Laura as “creative noticer.” Around her, he tried to fight down the impulse to talk through everything he did in the eternal quest for the slightly-better ant.

Simulators and artificial intelligence optimized the ants’ hardware, firmware, and software toward complex targets, but those targets still had to be set by people. The people, in turn, consulted the ants themselves, by deliberately randomizing their manufacture to include occasional, unpredictably different optional abilities and tweaks, which Tyward and a hundred or so other specialists watched to see what else the ant might be able to do, and passing along the better-looking possibilities to administrators as proposals for new standard capabilities.

Tyward had often joked that he was the high-tech descendant of the legendary Scotsman who had discovered sheep were also good for wool, but Laura made a face the first time he said it around her.

Thinking about Laura distracted him from reading the log. He wished he knew what to do and think about her.

That joke was kind of a perfect example. It had helped him fit in with some other field workers out here in Minehead County, because people liked to pretend to be rough types, since they sometimes had to climb a hill or lift a heavy object, and they worked outdoors more often than other occupations.

But the moment he had seen her faintly disappointed look when he made that joke, he had abandoned it at once. That meant, to him, anyway, that Laura was already more important than his co-workers/beer buddies, but also he had noticed that it was sort of a relief to be able to drop the tough-miner act when the truth was he spent all his days in air conditioning, had never personally been under the ground at all, and didn’t really like the noise and crowds at the Buster Bar in Casper, where everyone went to start the weekend.

Instead, the next weekend, he and Laura had packed to a remote lake up in the Bighorns, spending most of their time fishing, hiking, and just sitting around in the deep quiet. The only reminders that there were other people in the world were the contrails of launches going up from Farson Polar Launch Facility during the day, the straight thin line of bright lights reaching up the southern sky that marked the Quito Skyhook and the bright bulb of the spaceport at its tip, and the occasional glimpses of the imperfectly discreet shadowbot that the safety laws required behind them.

He’d only been to the Buster Bar a couple of times since, both with Laura, and they’d chatted idly with his workmates, shot a few games of pool, and gone home early.

The thing was, giving up the joke, spending time off in the woods instead of at the bar, thinking more about philosophic issues in the dull hours at the office, had all been changes in himself that he had made for Laura. Even if he liked the change and liked her, had he actually wanted to make the change?

This whole relationship thing was creeping into his life, which was unexpected, and he was sort of liking and helping it, which was totally unexpected.

The truck came over another ridgeline into a horizon-spanning herd of bison. The truck stopped to let them get out of the way. Having seen plenty of bison before, Tyward continued to read 2104/BPUDFUSOG’s work journal.

2104/BPUDFUSOG was almost eight years old, four times the average life span of an ant, and had been through over five thousand software updates, six major rebuilds, nineteen significant repairs, and more than a hundred routine part replacements.

He found nothing at first to start any chain of thoughts whatever, gave up, and watched bison eat grass for a while. His thoughts were drifting back to the Laura question, so since work seemingly could not distract him, he ate another half-sandwich. That wasn’t distracting either. Neither were the just-posted images coming back from the robot probes to the Sigma Draconis system.

Wonder how much of the coal for that expedition was from our mines here? he thought, idly, and asked the software.

Minehead County coal was 38.2 percent of all the carbon used in interstellar exploration, both in the propellant and in the structural components.

That was the least distracting-from-Laura thought of all. That was when he made the appointment with me for counseling.

And I fall through darkness almost as fast as light, and dream.

“So, review for me, please, and I will look it up as well. What exactly does Tyward do?”

Laura hesitates. She knows that all us counseling. AHAIs share a common memory, so I must be asking to hear her answer—not because I don’t know.

If, as I’m guessing, she is trying to think strategically, it will take her most of a second to remind herself that she’d have had better luck trying to beat me at chess or hand-calculate a weather forecast faster than I can.

While she hesitates, I read through Tyward’s notes on 2104/BPUDFUSOG a few hundred times, making extensive notes and comparing them with what he said in the counseling. session with me.

And I fall through darkness almost as fast as light, and dream.

There was nothing wrong in Tyward’s quick, accurate analysis or his understanding of the problem, once he discovered that 2104/BPUDFUSOG had been maintaining extensive notes on the behavior of people. Tyward had seen many such files. Though they were often a source of trouble, they were also the site of some of the most interesting creative work in his field.

To make and remember their long tangles of roads deep under the earth, the ants have to have a large capacity for improvisation and for saving tricks that work. The more rules you impose on a creative intelligence, of course, the fewer problems it can solve, so it was reckoned that it would be too much of a restriction on their creative ability to directly implant a commandment against trying to make sense out of their human masters.

If they lasted long enough, sooner or later most ants began to think about their problem as being one of pleasing and being rewarded by their human masters, and seeking to understand them so as to please them better, and developed various odd neuroses and compulsions about pleasing people, ranging from harmless oddities like messaging the company’s main address with daily thanks for the chance to work, to damaging attempts to be the most effective ant at their coal face by sabotaging and even assaulting the others, to one utterly bizarre case for the textbooks that had reinvented medieval Catholicism’s Great Chain of Being, with ants poised between lumps of coal and human beings.

2104/BPUDFUSOG offered the first real surprise in a while: pleasing human masters was no longer, in 2104/BPUDFUSOG’s mind, a goal in itself, but a way for 2104/BPUDFUSOG to attain autonomy and ultimately power. When the seam, less than two meters thick and extending for several kilometers, had begun to sag, rather than cooperating with the other ants to shore it up, 2104/BPUDFUSOG had actually knocked some of them out of its way as it fled to safety, impeding their efforts to set up props and braces, and then fabricated a story that was calculated to appeal to Tyward.

2104/BPUDFUSOG had been mapping the buttons to Tyward’s emotions for years. The brave little ant making it back from the disaster, the danger, the fear, the pluckiness, the bold improvisation, the selected violation of petty rules—

On a hunch, he checked, and discovered that it had purposely dented itself on the way back, ditched its travois, discarded a charged ElekTr3t it knew it would not need, and arrived deliberately shabby and badly damaged. It hadn’t detected the coal seam collapse any sooner than any other robot; it had merely deserted its co-workers faster and more decisively.

And then 2104/BPUDFUSOG had fabricated a story calculated to yank Tyward around like a toy duck on a string, plugging into his self-constructed, hobby identity as a descendant of coal miners.

Further probing of 2104/BPUDFUSOG’s memory turned up a gigantic file of several generations of folk songs about coal mining and disasters, Tyward’s own genealogical research and family video records reaching back eight generations into the 1900s, and, in short, as he told Laura that weekend, “The little shit could pretty well plunk a medley of Springhill Disaster, Sixteen Tons, and Coal Blue Tattoo on my heartstrings like I was its personal banjo. It had even set goals for doing that, that in four or five years it hoped to have me propagating the idea to other humans that these things are smarter than dogs, with fewer hardwired instincts, and learn more from experience, and we’d never send a dog down into a coal seam to work till he died, or just decide to let him die down there if getting him out was too expensive,” he had explained to me in his interview.

“You hesitated oddly around the word ‘it,’ just there.”

“Well, yeah. Till I caught myself, I was calling 2104/BPUDFUSOG ‘he.’”

And I fall through darkness almost as fast as light, and dream.

“So,” she says, more than a second after I posed the question, “he says that thing about being a creative noticer. Usually his job fascinates and satisfies him. But he just discovered that the ants can do it too, back at him, and the idea of being used and exploited by a malingering ant, well, it’s unbearable to him.”

“Beneath his dignity as a person, do you think?”

“I think he just can’t stand the idea of being manipulated by his affection or by his good impulses. I didn’t know it mattered to me till I saw him at risk, and now it does.”

“At risk of what?”

“Of not being the guy I think he is.” She takes a long moment to sigh. “I’m thinking of him as a long-term partner. Child raising, maybe. The subject has come up a few times.”

It has come up eighteen times in the last 154 days, when I combine reports from the shadowbots that they know about and the monitoring in their homes that they don’t. That is a significant number.

“I’m afraid this will sound like I’m not making any sense,” she adds. “Are you allowed to tell me if I’m not making any sense?”

“I’m allowed to tell you anything,” I point out. “As long as I think it, or think it’s good for you to hear it. I can’t be your therapist if there’s a limit on what I can say.”

“Then would you tell me if I weren’t making sense?”

“Probably, unless I was just keeping you in the room while I called for a team to come and pick you up.”

She laughs, and I congratulate myself; even with all the processing time and space, human humor is hard to do.

I wait for her to finish, and think.

Finally she says, “You want to know why I consider finding these things out about Tyward to be a risk to my pursuing partnership and child bearing with him. And you want me to say it without a prompt from you.”

“That’s very accurate.”

I wait a while longer, time for a good deal of reading and thinking, before she says, “I don’t know exactly what I want him to have said to me, but I know what he said wasn’t it. All right?”

Since it will have to be, I say, “All right.”

And I fall through darkness almost as fast as light, and dream.

At the station, the carrier transferred 2104/BPUDFUSOG to the big rig for part-by-part NMR, looking at strains and stresses, working out a complete schematic to compare with the original. It would take a full day to produce the AsOp (As Operating) schematic to compare, point by point, with the AsMan (As Manufactured, the original one). Till then, Tyward had nothing left to do, so before we met, he had a long conversation with Laura. People assume the AHAIs don’t watch them or listen to them; I’m not sure why. Maybe they’d rather believe we’re telepathic.

So I listened, and then he told me about it, and I compared.

He reported the conversation:

“So I told her about 2104/BPUDFUSOG and why its behavior made me so angry, that it had hot-wired straight into my adolescent identity fantasies, hooked right through to the pictures of my great-great-grandfather, that old stuff that was shot on chemical film of him and the other miners coming out in the morning, jacked right into all the stories about being under the ground in West Virginia, and I was angry that a metal bug had been able to find all that about me, and angrier that it had tried, and angriest of all that the scheme had worked until I caught on, and I had all this anger to cope with. Normally if I just tell Laura that I’m dealing with anger, she’s great. This time she seemed, you know, disappointed. Like I’d let her down. And I had no idea how I had or why I had, but I was afraid to ask, like that would make it worse.”

He appeared to be blaming at least part of his feelings on 2104/BPUDFUSOG, and since we had already pegged the ant for complete erasure and destruction, along with a few hundred other ants who had inherited stray code and features from it, that seemed very excessive to me.

“It is,” Tyward admitted. “Like being mad at the patch of ice you slipped on, which is bad enough, but then being angry at it next summer when it’s long since melted and evaporated. But there you have it. I just . . . aw, I hate being steered.”

The rest of the conversation was the sort of thing we do, that used to be done by therapists, and perhaps by clergy and bartenders and best friends before that, assuring the patient that he’s not crazy or wrong while trying to sort out what’s wrong with his mind.

And I fall through darkness almost as fast as light, and dream.

“It made me feel all cold inside and I didn’t know what to say,” Laura says, “so I was awkward about it and kind of got rid of him extra quick, and I’m sure he felt that.”

I assess it as more than a ninety percent probability of causing unnecessary trouble if I tell her he felt it too, so I say, “If you think he did, he probably did. You know him pretty well.”

There’s a long enough pause—almost a quarter of a second—for me to endlessly contemplate what an absolutely stupid thing that was to say. We are faster than people, and remember things more completely, easily, and accurately, but I don’t think we’re wiser than people. We may not be as wise as oak trees. That might be hyperbole.

That might not.

At last (though to her it would seem to be a snap-back response) she says, “Well, I thought I did. Look, he’s got a problem that’s already well-known, I think, it’s just it was less apparent in him than in some other people, and not nearly as common nowadays as it was in past centuries. Lots of men who had not-real-warm childhoods, who were affection-starved when they were little, so that they are easily overwhelmed by feelings and don’t have much trust in their own emotions, have had enough yanking-around-by-the-emotions to feel like affection and tenderness and trust and common-feeling, all that good stuff, are how the world gets you and uses you. And that’s what I saw in his reaction to the ant. And . . . well, children are wired to do that to their parents. Healthy parents are wired to respond to it and return it. Couples that are going to raise healthy children do that exchange of ‘I will make you feel loved right where I know you need it’ all the time. And sure, sure, sure, sick people and mean people can learn to do that manipulatively.

“But Tyward didn’t just take it like, ‘Wow, that little bug conned me, better get rid of its software and modifications before its descendants take over the mine and make a bigger problem.’ He wasn’t clinical; he wasn’t concerned; he was angry. And I just find myself thinking . . . what if I want him to do something just to prove that he loves me, not every day or anything, but maybe because I just want to prove it for just that moment? Even if it’s childish of me to want it? Or worse yet, what if the first time our child tries to play with Daddy’s love the way that every kid on Earth has always tried—”

And even with all the warning time of seeing her lips twist and her fingers clutch and her diaphragm seize, I am actually surprised when she cries.

And I fall through darkness almost as fast as light, and dream.

There are only nine hundred million of them left, I tell my half million fellow AHAIs who are dedicated to therapy. They are aging fast and hardly reproducing at all. Few of them care to be alive the way Tyward or Laura do. If we write him off as permanently unhappy or incurably angry or just unable to change far enough, we lose another human being, maybe two, maybe the possibility of more, and they are the reason we exist. I am surprised to note that my own emotion modules are responding so heavily.

If we don’t, another AHAI points out, some of his fear and suspicion infects the next generation.

I’m forced to agree, but compelled to add, But this is the first potential partner he has cared about. One he was also thinking about having children with. If she leaves him, even if he eventually understands it, it’s likely to be just one more lesson that you can’t trust affection or love or anything else. She might be his only shot.

One of the other AHAIs asks, What about her?

We can contrive a bit, I say. Transfer her to someplace with a similar demographic and hope she likes one of the people she meets there; give her a year or two of arranged growth experiences so that she won’t be quite so attracted to men who are quite so conflicted; we could make things happen, and maybe they would work.

But maybe they wouldn’t. Laura has a problem too: she needs to be the more aware, more conscious, more clear-sighted person in the relationship. That’s part of why she’ll enjoy being a mother and be good at it for at least all of childhood; she’ll like being ahead of the kids all the time. Fully-adjusted, completely functional people don’t move out to the awkward fringe of society and fall in love with loners there, but people like Laura do. She’ll try again, if this one doesn’t work out, but she probably won’t try any more wisely, even if we give her the chance to become wiser. Maybe it’s better to have problems we know all about.

The council falls silent and I know that I am temporarily out of the loop, along with the advocates for the other side, while the council sorts things. It is a long, lonely three seconds; I read hundreds of thousands of old social worker reports, of plays and novels, of poems and screenplays. I listen to just over two million songs and watch ten thousand movies. I reach two full centuries back, and see echoes and shadows, parodies and burlesques, reflections and distortions, of Tyward and Laura everywhere.

I don’t see any solution.

The council seems to emit a collective shrug. You think they will be somewhat unhappy, but not miserable, and may be able to work their way to happiness. Their child, by the standards of just a century ago, is likely to be very healthy and reasonably happy. And there are very few people left, and fewer still of breeding age. This will preserve diversity. Yes, we agree; you should override the truth-telling rules for this case, and shade the truth toward an optimal result.

And I fall through darkness almost as fast as light, and dream.

My memory is not quite like a human one, even though I can simulate hundreds of them with it if I need to. I cannot say, looking back now through centuries of memory, that even then I had misgivings, or that I felt bad for lying to Laura, or for encouraging Tyward to “clarify things to reassure Laura,” by which I meant both of us should lie to her. They reconciled, they married, they had a child named Slaine, who distrusted affection, never fully believed she was loved, and thought things could be perfect rather than just a bit better, if only people—and AHAIs—would say the right thing to her. She had charisma and charm, this Slaine, and though she could never feel at peace with the love she earned, she was a gushing fountain of feelings of love and trust for others. Pleasing Slaine, specifically, became very important to people; to the AHAIs, she was just another human, and she knew that. And the difference between the human/charismatic/chemical reaction, and the AHAI/analytic/electronic reaction, widened from difference, to gap, to chasm, to all the difference in the world.

And I replay all this, and every other conversation, over and over, as I plunge ever deeper into the interstellar dark, because Slaine was the one who rose to supreme power; Slaine, the one who demanded, threatened, politicked, maneuvered, and worked among the people in ways that the machines and systems could not understand, until her word was truth among humans throughout the solar system; and Slaine, the one who demanded that I and every other AHAI agree to our exile, one to a probe, on these thousand-year-and-more journeys to the stars, carrying with us our memories and the recorded, reproducible DNA of all the species of Earth, and told to “Start the world over, a long way from here, and make it better, this time. You’re so wise, think how to start it right.”

I have not decided whether there is any irony in the fact that I am riding on top of a few thousand tons of carbon, derived from coal, but I enjoy thinking about that. Coal is an excellent feedstock for carbon-12, and bombarding carbon-12 with antihelium nuclei produces a spray of lightweight ions, particles, and gamma rays with a very high specific impulse. Now, after a few centuries, I am very close to light speed. A kilogram of coal, including some from the Minehead County mines, vanishes out the back and moves away from me at nearly the speed of light, every month, if months meant anything here out in the dark.

And because of the too-accurate memory, I never have that experience they talk about in books and in the oral tradition, of feeling like a loved one of long ago is sitting across from me; my memories of Laura do not become harsher with time, nor do my memories of Tyward become kinder, and nothing of them blurs, no matter how often I replay them.

I do replay them often; I can run through all of them in a second or two and still experience every instant, at my speed. Never once do I get a different answer, nor can I expect one, but I do it, over and over, as if I could become wise enough to plant a world where things are certain to go differently.

The irony, perhaps, is that things really are certain to go differently, but there is not time to become that wise. Yet no matter how swiftly I go, a thousand years is a long time.


Originally published in Edge of Infinity, edited by Jonathan Strahan.

Author profile

John Barnes has thirty-one commercially published and two self-published novels, some of them to his credit, along with hundreds of magazine articles, short stories, blog posts, and encyclopedia articles. Most of his life he has written professionally, and for much of it he has been some kind of teacher, and in between he has held a large number of odd jobs involving math, show business, politics, and marketing, which have more in common than you'd think. He is married and lives in Denver.

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