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.
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.
I’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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41 Thoughts to “Guest Post: Science Fiction Romance Author Maria Zannini”
Maria, your book sounds wonderful!! I’m a huge sf/fantasy reader. Congrats on the release. I’m adding it to my TBR pile. If only I had more time to read!! With a teen and a toddler in the house, reading time is such a luxury! BTW, I bought my first Mac in 1985 — a 128k model. I thought I was the bomb!! 🙂
Aah. . .my first computer. It was rented by friends (yes, there were computers you could rent in the 1990s) and when they went travelling for six months we babysat it. All it could do was word processing but I didn’t complain; I started my first novel on that huge, slow monolith.
Great guest post!
I didn’t know you could rent computers. That’s a great idea. I was terrified spending that much money at one time. Great to see you here, Ellie.
As someone once said: If you’re not panicking, you’re not paying attention.
I seem to be in a constant state of panic where my Mac’s concerned. My monitor has an iffy connector and, usually when the dogs knock the cable, my screen goes blank. I go into panic overdrive every time it happens.
A great story, Maria. Can’t wait to read True Believers!
Shirley, we need to form a club. The Panic Posse. When you’re whole career depends on a computer, you bet I panic. Totally understandable.
Thanks for visiting me. Hope you like True Believers.
You guys beat me to the post. LOL!
Thanks, Tia for letting me hang around your place for the day.
Julie: In 1985 my husband was still trying to convince me computers were not the anti-Christ. LOL. He always has to drag me into new technology.
Teen and toddler. Holy moley! That sounds like a double life sentence. 🙂
My first computer was a DOS 8088 with two floppy drives and no hard drive. We didn’t know what to do with it other than play a few games, so I learned GWBasic. And then I got a word processing program and started writing a novel that I never finished.
It was the start of two great careers for me!
My husband is the geek in the family. Back in the 70s, he brought home a TRS-80, a computer that used an actual tape deck –and get this had 4 KB of RAM. FOUR!
I hated that machine, but he assured me someday computers would be far more advanced. Guess he was right.
My dad brought home a computer from work when I was about 9, in the 70s. He had to enter a program (maybe in BASIC?) in order to just get it to do a banner of “Hello World” or something similar. We were totally unimpressed.
I was 8 when i got my first computer dad bought it so i could type i only played Prince jaffar on it.
The weirdest thing a computer has ever done to me is cut up a page on screen and paste is vertically, horizontally and diagonally on the screen I stil dont know what i did to deserve that.
Joanna, that is wild. How did you ever get it back to normal?
The other day, I hit a button on my laptop and it switched my entire window horizontally. I had to go on the internet to find out how to switch it back.
I think I need to stop pushing buttons.
I’m the opposite, I’m the one who will take the computer apart only to discover that all I needed to do was swap out the card.
Dru, you’re an analyst in real life, aren’t you? 🙂
That sounds so like you.
I guess my first “computer” was a little portable word processor, that displayed 4 lines at a time on the screen! I don’t know how I got my writing done, but I did. I guess I was paying my dues.
Joanne, isn’t there something called an Alpha Smart that does that now? I kind of like the idea of a quiet word processor but the handful of lines still bothers me. That’s why God made BIG screens. LOL.
Thanks for coming over!
Yes! I have an AlphaSmart Neo! It displays 6 lines at a time! I used it extensively before I got my laptop, and now my daughter uses it. It DID keep me off email while I’m writing quite effectively. And it is very 80’s-esque.
OMG I can’t believe the computer told you not to panic. After crying, I woulda laughed my a-s-s off!!!
The dumbest thing I ever did on the computer was when I was trying to look something up on the Dick’s sporting goods website (a bike if I remember correctly). I wasn’t sure what the URL was, but I figured it would be dicks.com. Well, let’s just say it wasn’t. Suddenly there was T&A all over my computer, and I felt like a total blonde =P
Meghan, I had to wait ten minutes to type this because I couldn’t stop laughing.
Holy Dog in heaven! That is hilarious. Now I want to know how long you stayed on that site. 😉
The only thing that comes close to that is one time a legitimate site I visited was hijacked by a porn site.
Fortunately, I got off quick. Unfortunately, I was at work and had to recreate my steps to prove the site had been hijacked. No word on how long my boss stayed on that site after I left.
You made my day, Meghan. Good one!
Late 80’s early 90’s we bought our first computer, have no memory of what brand but it had a floppy drive and was monochrome screen… Hated the thing as if you did not know DOS commands and something screwed up had to turn it off and reboot thereby losing anything you typed.. If I remember correctly it only did word processing and my husband had gotten it because he became a Ham Radio Operator and used it to run his program for “talking” with the keyboard to his ham buddies overseas and other places…
My first “Real Computer” I bought myself when working and it was a Compaq PC with the original windows and mostly used it for playing Solitaire and finding recipes online and email… Now with my wonderful IMac and Road Runner the world is mine!
Worst thing my computer has done so far is the other day I thought it crashed because sitting typing and then screen went black then screen went white and nothing but crickets chirping while I waited sweating in distress that I had killed it! I turned it off with the power button and then waited and turned it back on, obviously it works as am typing this message on it now!
Love hate relationship for sure!
Jackie, it is a lonely feeling when you think you killed your computer. And after it comes back to life, you want to chicken choke it for scaring you to death.
LOL – Maria, I love your little stories. It’s really true that a lot of our experiences find their way into our books in some way. My hubby and I were late to the world of computers and the Internet. We didn’t get one until around 96 when we’d settled back in New Zealand again after some major overseas travel.
Shelley, are you mocking my pain? For shame. LOL! I have to admit, if Greg had left me behind in the Troglodyte period I probably would not have missed computers. But now that I have one, I cannot live without one.
Thanks for coming over!
Wow, Maria! You draw quite a crowd!!!
Oh, Tia. LOL. I think people like to come over just to see what new ways I’ve found to maim or embarrass myself.
I’m like a dog and pony show–without the pony. 🙂
And humble, too!
(Haven’t read the comments yet.) Oh my! The story of your first computer is hilarious. I can totally identify with the horror of fearing you killed your computer. (Once I thought I’d picked up a computer virus only to discover that my Enter Key was stuck.)
Hi Chicory! I’m sure the code monkey who programmed that machine thought it was funny. I’m still gunning for him. He took two years off my life with that prank.
Ref: stuck key
OMG! I would’ve freaked. Hmm, I’m seeing a pattern here. Evidently, I panic first then figure out the answer later.
Thanks for stopping in! I’m going to remember the stuck key scenario. I know it’s bound to happen sooner or later.
Have no idea what (or even when) my first computer was. I do remember everything was done in DOS. I guess I should be thankful for that DOS experience though because I ended up needing it for a job I held about 12 years ago. However, I have never had a computer tell me not to panic…there’s been a few blue screens of death where a message like that would have been welcome, LOL
Ack! The blue screen of death! At work, we’d place odds whose machine would get hit next. You could always hear a blood curdling scream when someone got it, losing all their data.
It never happened to me though. I think it was because I used a laptop since I traveled. The laptops never got the blue screen of death.
When all else fails, ctrl-alt-delete. It’s like music. 😉
Heh. My mantra was always Ctrl Z (undo)
If only there was a Ctrl Z in life. Thanks for coming over and keeping me company, Liz!
Great story 🙂 Also, very cute dog.
My first computer had DOS, too. Never could remember the right codes… “C, backslash, er…”
Hi Deborah! DOS is one of those post traumatic experiences that still wakes me up in the middle of the night.
When it comes to computers, I don’t want to know how it works. I just want it to do its job without me jumping hoops.
Thanks for popping in!
During the old DOS days, there was this sense of community that Windows utterly destroyed. No one had modems, so we had to write out tech tips for each other ON PAPER! We would MAIL stuff to each other! There was an art to managing memory. We used to write autoexec.bat files that would present little menus of commonly-used programs, drawn with ASCII symbols. DOS came bundled with QBasic.
And then, once we had modems, there were bulletin-board systems that predated the internet. They were populated entirely by men. Then came Prodigy–a nationwide bbs. We joined and loved it right until they switched to an hourly rate schedule.
Windows 3.0 was a glorified Solitaire and word processing program. For the longest time, I didn’t understand what Windows was good for. Then, 3.1 came along and then there was suddenly a slew of programs written not for DOS, but for WINDOWS.
And my introduction to the internet is worth a whole different post.
Ref: We would MAIL stuff to each other!
That is so wild. Definitely a different era.
My computer scared me today by completely shutting down when I was in the middle of working on a manuscript. It seems to be working ok now **fingers crossed** In retrospect it might just have been trying to tell me something because I couldn’t seem to get this one sentence right and kept changing it over and over. Maybe it was my computer’s way of saying “YOU ARE DONE.”
LOL! I’m not laughing at you. It’s one of those nervous laughs where I hope your computer doesn’t talk to my computer.
I hope you didn’t lose much information.
The next time my computer shuts down on its own, I am going to be thinking about you, Eleri. 🙂
Thanks for visiting me.
Mail? What is this “mail” thing of which you speak?
All this computer talk must have hit a nerve…I’ve never seen so many comments 🙂
It was a great topic!
It was a nice topic. keep it up. I just saw it here. . . http://ionicchemistry.blogspot.com/p/ionic-compound-formula.html
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