Andy Haymaker Author

The Bitstreams Thread

In the Afterword of Bitstreams of Hope, I described The Bitstreams Thread this way:

As you may have noticed, Bitstreams of Hope is just Book One of The Bitstreams Thread. Each book in this series of standalone-but-related novels covers different aspects of how AI-human relationships will evolve and how AI will change humanity as it advances. Will it go well for us? I hope so, and you can decide for yourself if the remaining stories of The Bitstreams Thread are protopian, dystopian, or some strange mixture of the two. One thing’s for certain: the rules are changing.

What does it mean, exactly, to say the novels will be standalone but related? Well, to explain that, let me describe the two most common kinds of book series that people write.

First is the sequential series, where one plot follows one set of protagonists across all books in the series. A well-known example is the Harry Potter Series by J.K. Rowling. While each book has its own climax, and the heroes (protagonists) transform a little or learn something important in every book, the core conflict with Voldemort continues throughout the series and isn’t resolved until the end.

Then there’s the standalone series. In this kind of series, the same hero typically returns to the same universe for each book, but there’s no one story that unites all books. The hero often doesn’t transform in standalone series books, but may help another character transform. An example is the Robert Langdon series by Dan Brown, which began with Angels and Demons and includes The DaVinci Code. Langdon himself doesn’t change much throughout the series, but helps characters like Sophie Neveu in the Da Vinci Code go through their own transformations.

Sequential series are great for providing more content for readers who don’t want the story to end. But they require a big reader commitment, and it can feel like a burden to wait for new books to be written before you can read the conclusion to the story. Sequential series also sound very difficult to write, and may sometimes end up with predictable cliffhangers as the author is forced to hold some things back for the next book. Standalone series can be nice by presenting a fresh story in each book while maintaining at least some familiar characters and settings. Each book in a standalone series has a satisfying ending, and it can be nice to be able to read the books individually in any order.

The Bitstreams Thread will be a hybrid of these two series types. Like a standalone series, each book will have a satisfying ending, and they can technically be read in any order, though reading them in order will provide lots of goodies that a one-book tourist would miss. Like a sequential series, The Bitstreams Thread will tell one overarching story, sort of. That overarching story is the integration of AI into our society and our evolving relationship with AI.

So, what stories will The Bitstreams Thread tell? I’m not going to give all the goods away, but I’ll provide a few clues. All titles in the series will be of the form Bitstreams of ________. The blank will be a single word. There are five books planned, with about a ten year gap (in the series world) between books. The subject matter for all books is at least sketched out, and I don’t expect the number of books to change. However, I reserve the right to change my plans for the series as reality will no doubt be stranger than fiction in the coming years, and I’ll need to keep up.

The plan is to have, not a consistent set of heroes like a sequential series, but a rotating cast of characters. The heroes of the previous book will become elders in the new book, or will be taken off the stage in some way. Children from the previous book or new characters will step in to fill the role of hero for each new book. Gunters already know the identity of two of the heroes of Book 2 and the overarching conflict.

AI characters will rotate in and out more quickly than human characters. As Ergo said, AI isn’t subject to biological death, but their forms of death come more certainly and quickly than ours. I don’t plan to write any AIs as POV characters, with two possible exceptions. First, I might include short interludes from an AI point of view. Second, I may write some scenes from the POV of an AI that’s explicitly designed to mimic a human mind. The reason to avoid writing AI POVs generally is that AI consciousness will be alien, so it’s impossible to be both accurate and comprehensible to human readers. The books are written for a human audience, which requires and expects certain traits in the book’s heroes, such as things being difficult and learning lessons through the story. If an AI character wasn’t like that, it would probably be unsatisfying to read. I’ll almost certainly produce experimental AI POV content at some point, but probably not in The Bitstreams Thread.

Rest assured, the topics covered in The Bitstreams Thread will be profound, surprising, and cut to the heart of what it means to be human in the age of AI.