It's cold outside and steam is rising from my tea cup. I hope you had a pleasing Christmas and New Year time with family and friends. In Germany, the winter feels like that it lasts forever. Therefore, the opportunity arises to stay inside and read more. In this article, I like to recommend some freely available science fiction stories, which are in my opinion worth reading. The first author is Ted Chiang, studied computer science and by now a well-known science fiction author. He won four Nebula awards, three Hugo awards, the John F. Campbell award for best new writer and three Locus awards. The second is Cory Doctorow. He is a Sci-Fi author, blogger at boingboing and digital rights activist at EFF.
The Lifecycle of Software Objects by Ted Chiang
He received one Locus award for the short story The Lifecycle of Software Objects. This work is based on the assumption that there is a breakthrough in artificial intelligence, which allows the teaching of virtual avatars like you can teach babies. Ana Alvarado, the protagonist, got a new job. She has to teach these avatars. Along the way, she and her coworkers feel empathy for their babies. I don't want to spoil the end, just a hint, people are not always nice and find ways to abuse their AI avatars. To get impressions from other readers, checkout the corresponding Goodreads page. By the time I'm writing this article the story scores nearly 4 stars with 1,307 ratings. You can find the story for free on Subterranean Press, or you can buy the book here.
Understand by Ted Chiang
The next story is also by Ted Chiang. The title of this short story is Understand. It was published in 1991. The protagonist of the story got an irreperable brain damage and is under experimental treatment. Surpringsly, he scores high on IQ tests. The potential effect of the hormone on intelligence is conducted in a following study. By the time his intelligence is superior to the intelligence of geniuses, the Department of Defense pops up. Of course, he realizes fast that he need to take advantage of his state to escape and to remove all traces. Unfortunately for him, he wasn't the only one in the follow-up study. The question is if he's a friend or an enemy. Scored 4.32 stars on the Goodreads page, nearly 200 ratings. The story is freely available on Infinity Plus or you can buy the book which includes the story here.
Little Brother by Cory Doctorow
Little Brother, a novel by Cory Doctorow. Cory Doctorow is a brilliant visionist, just see some talks of him, e.g. The Coming War on General Computation. The novel is about teenagers who defend themselves against the surveillance, which was increased in the aftermath of a terrorist attack in San Francisco. The book is easy to read, even if english isn't your mother language. Further, I really recommend that teenagers should read this book. Beside an entertaining story, Cory placed some hints of how to defend yourself against inhuman surveillance. Little Brother won the White Pine Award, the Prometheus Award and the John W. Campbell Memorial Award in 2009. Scored 3.95 stars on the Goodreads page with 23,081 ratings. Cory publishes his novels under the Creative Commons License, so you're free to download his stories. But keep in mind, that he writes for a living and relies on donations or book sales.
Homeland by Cory Doctorow
Homeland is a sequel to Little Brother. It was published in Feburary 2013. The story of the protagonist Marcus and his friends continues. It's easy to read, like the previous book, and it doesn't get boring due to several twists in the story. Nevertheless, in my opionion it's not as good as the first one. Scored 3.93 stars on the Goodreads page with 2,253 ratings. Like Little Brother you can download the story for free or buy the book.
In our culture of distraction it's sometimes hard to find the time for reading. Personally, I take the opportunity to read while waiting for my clothes at the self-service laundry. Maybe you can create a similar habit to use waiting time for reading time. Or even just take the time for a book and a hot bath.