Please welcome Mr. Baines today for an interview!
NA: Welcome! What drew you to write Christian sci-fi?
PB: Hi Noah, and thanks for having me. My earliest encounter with stories of any kind was when I was about nine or ten, curled up in bed listening to "A Twist in the Tale" on the radio on Sunday night. I was enthralled by the stories that always managed to catch me by surprize. Later, I found myself drawn to stories that were out-of-the-ordinary. I loved the "what if?" of Speculative Fiction. When I became a Christian, I asked God what I could do to serve Him. I imagined some sort of ministry, but found myself with a desire to tell stories. With my love of Speculative Fiction, it seemed natural for me to write within that genre, but from a Christian perspective. Sci-fi tends to portray the God of the Bible in a negative way and I wanted to do something that would glorify God.
NA: What is unique in Alpha Redemption compared to other sci-fi?
PB: The idea of a sentient machine coming to a belief in God is something I have never encountered before. AI is nothing new, but self-aware machines are usually portrayed in a negative light. There are exceptions ("Short Circuit" and "I Am Robot" for example) but they never seem curious about God. I can't imagine a sentient computer not being fascinated by the big questions of faith, love, and redemption.
NA: As you look back on writing it, what challenged you the most, and how did you get through it?
PB: The big challenge with Alpha Redemption was showing Jay's growth in a believable way. I remember watching Short Circuit where Number Five finally gets the joke of why the chicken crossed the road. I remember thinking: a machine can't laugh because it doesn't have a diaphragm, and it can't cry because it doesn't have tear ducts. So the challenge was to show Jay experiencing emotion in a way that made sense for a machine. I did this by looking at sensory perception simply as the transfer of data, with pain becoming data overload. After that, the development of emotion followed quite smoothly.
NA: Which character was the hardest to write, and which was the easiest?
PB: Jay was the hardest because I had to start from a purely logical point of view, slowly turning him from a machine into something more human-like. I had to think very carefully about everything he said. At the start of the story he was incredibly smart but also extremely naive. I had to think of him as this small child in possession of a world of information. He could recount endless facts on any subject and yet could not grasp the concept of "lying by omission". Brett was the easiest to write because a large part of Brett's life and character was based on my own experiences and personality.
NA: If you could be any character in your books, who would it be?
PB: I think it would have to be Jay. To start life with so much knowledge and so much potential would be an amazing gift. I'm not sure I would be happy existing inside a computer though.
NA: Do you believe that AI’s such as Jay could exist in the near future?
PB: With Moore's Law proving uncannily accurate, I can't help but believe that someday somebody will create a machine capable of learning and, eventually, becoming self-aware. In the past decade, huge advances have been made in robotics. Modern robots can run, climb stairs, and make basic decisions. Technology is increasing in complexity and power at an exponential rate. If things continue as they are, I believe it is only a matter of time.
NA: Can you tell us three things about yourself we readers may not know?
PB: I originally planned to be a psychologist, but after my second year of study decided it was not the career for me. I once won a national title as a professional fitness instructor. I am scared of heights but enjoy flying.
NA: Is there going to be a sequel to Alpha Redemption?
PB: Yes. As soon as I finish my current novel "Hanzet, the Universe, and Everything", I plan to start work on a sequel to Alpha Redemption called Alpha Revelation.
NA: Do you have future book plans or ideas?
PB: I have a few ideas. Apart from Hanzet and Alpha Revelation, I have another story waiting to be written, plus two more old stories I want to rewrite, and possibly a short story that I would like to expand into a novel.
NA: Do you have any advice to those wanting to write sci-fi?
PB: No matter what genre you choose to write in, always remember to make the story your top priority. Robots and lasers are all very well, but they only become memorable if the story captures your reader's imagination.
NA: It's been great to have you join us! Do you have any parting words for our readers?
PB: Thanks Noah. It was fun and I really enjoyed your questions. In parting I would like to ask anyone who has read Alpha Redemption and liked it to tell others who might be interested. If you have finished with your copy, please pass it on to someone else to read, or even leave it in a book store. If you can, post reviews at places like Amazon and B&N. As an author at a small press, I rely heavily on Internet reviews and word-of-mouth to find my readers. They are out there, I just have to find them. If you enjoyed my book, please pass it along. Thank you!
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