MariaZanniniMaria Zannini

Maria Zannini is a science fiction romance author, published by Sanhaim and Carina Press. Touch of Fire is available in print and as ebook, and True Believers just came available at Carina Press last week. Maria has also been following my blog since way back in my Fantasy Debut days, and we both got our Calls from Carina Press during the same week! Here is an unlikely story of how Maria’s early days with computers inspired her AI characters.

DON’T PANIC

These are the infamous words stamped into the Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy, set, as Douglas Adams told us, in large, friendly letters on the cover.

I found out the hard way that geeks and computer designers take these things way too seriously.

The year was 1987 and after much soul-searching decided that graphic design would one day be done entirely on computer. Was I prophetic or what?

I dug deep into my nearly empty pockets and paid a hefty amount for what was then a state of the art computer, considered best suited for artists and designers.

The Mac SE.

I’ll wait while you take a collective gasp.

For three days, I didn’t leave my chair except to sleep and go to the bathroom. I ate at my desk, my nose buried in the computer manual as I memorized every key stroke and tool on that keyboard. This was my first computer—my first REAL computer.

Along with my computer, I also bought a printer that printed in COLOR. This was cutting edge, people!

And yet the computer itself couldn’t display color. I had to hope each gray area on the monitor would come out with the selected color on paper.

Those early days were rough. There was no doubt I was in way over my head. I am the most non-techy person you’ll ever meet. Want proof?

The first day I opened a document on that computer, I kept trying to change the font on a word I had typed. Nothing happened.

What was I doing wrong? I followed the directions exactly, my cursor on the word, while I went up to the menu and selected Times Roman.

Nothing. Nada. Zilch. The stupid machine was worthless!

Exasperated, I called the salesperson who sold me the computer. “It doesn’t work!” My voice sizzled with accusation. I was ready to roast her on the coals.

She went through all the steps with me—yes, all two of them, and finally said, “Did you select the word?”

Of course I selected it. My cursor is right on top of it.

“No,” she said gently. “Did you select the entire word?”

I cringed silently. I had to be the DUMBEST person in the world. Sufficiently mortified, I selected the entire word and voila, changed the font.

Okay, so I’m a slow learner. Did I mention it was my very first computer?

Over the next few months I vindicated myself, my fingers blurring across that keyboard like a machine. I got so fast, sometimes the computer struggled to keep up and there would be a delay before it could process my instructions.

One day, I went too far. After burning up the keyboard with finger taps, my monitor burst into an explosion of white dots, a digital fireworks display dancing across my screen.

In big, bold (yet friendly) letters it displayed, DON’T PANIC, before flashing into a million starry dots then snapping to black.

I had killed it! I had killed my very expensive, still-not-paid-for computer. How was I ever going to explain this to my husband?

I stared at the monitor, disbelieving what I had just seen. I shut it off and waited.

DON’T PANIC it said. Were they kidding me? Of course I panicked! I waited for slow, agonizing minutes and let the hard drive cool off.

With trembling fingers, I turned the computer on again. Now I know there is a God in heaven because the darn thing came back to life.

Huzzah! My husband would not have to execute me after all.

TrueBelieversI’m telling you this story because this was the seed for what would become Bubba and FAIA, the artificial intelligences in True Believers.

Steve Jobs scared the hell out of me in 1987, but I have to thank him for giving me my jumping off point for two computers that grew into real characters.

Bubba and FAIA are AIs (artificial intelligence) and they just gave the world a whole new reason to worry.

DON’T PANIC.  It’s too late for that anyway.

***

Maria Zannini’s latest release is a science fiction romance called TRUE BELIEVERS.

Mix one cynical immortal and one true believer and throw them into the biggest alien-hunt the world has never known. Rachel Cruz is a Nephilim masquerading as an archeologist and she’s stuck with an alien who believes she can lead him to his ancestral gods. Black Ops wants to find these gods too. They want them dead.

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