Thursday, May 21, 2009

John Varley's "Press Enter _" (novella, AI): Lifestyle of a computer hacker & criminal

Quote from short story titled Press Enter_ by John VarleyVarley seems to specialize in horror that is accessible to people who don't have a taste for the gory! How many other authors can write almost fun stories that are clearly horror?

Caution: This story has some sex scenes.

Story summary.

Charles Kluge, a recluse, appears to have committed suicide & left his property to Victor Apfel, a neighbor (& the narrator) he barely knew. Forensic investigation of the vast computer installations at his home will reveal the lifestyle of a super-programmer & a super-criminal.

Through the investigation, we'll see two more apparent suicides: of Detective Osborne, the cop investigating the case, & Lisa Foo, the woman doing the forensic investigation of Charles' machines & software. And Victor will be left an absolutely frightened & broken man.

You see, while having his hacking fun, Charles had stumbled upon a piece of software running on NSA's computers. We never learn the true nature of this software beast, but get enough indications that it's an AI run amok, that it exists without the knowledge of NSA, & that it is the real murderer of the 3!

Fact sheet.

First published: Asimov's, May 1984.
Rating: A.
Winner of Hugo Award 1985 in novella category.
Nominated for Nebula Award 1984 in novella category.
Related: Stories of John Varley.


Anonymous said...

I read this story when it first came out, being a subscriber to Asimov's magazine. I think of it often as I watch my world crumble, though there are people behind the computers, not computers doing things on their own, yet.

John said...

Heh, you don't know that.