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Location: Paris, France

Gender: M

Member Since: January 2019

Last online: October 2022

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Last Updated Dec 06, 2021

"Donatien's Children" published

Saturday January 15th 22: "Donatien's Children" published on Amazon

"Donatien's Children" is now available on Amazon as a Kindle eBook and paperback. The link is at the bottom of this page. Here's a summary: first the blurb and then a longer guide. It will answer your first question: Donatien?


Donatien's Children


The StarDrop Corporation emerged from nowhere offering new technologies for fusion power, spaceflight and synthetic life. Petra Schelling, teen chess prodigy, was recruited by an intelligence agency to spy on StarDrop - before vanishing. James Melrose, her controller, is told that losing an agent is regrettable but it happens. But why has Petra now become a high-profile StarDrop agent of influence?

StarDrop’s Artificial People are suddenly everywhere in entertainment, the media, politics and top jobs. Friendly, attractive and smart, they are indispensable in tough assignments such as the mission investigating an anomaly on the larger Martian moon, where an artefact suggests StarDrop might be of extraterrestrial origin.

Élise and Mireille Fossey: two sisters, one a journalist, the other a researcher. For Élise, StarDrop will lead her into more than lethal peril; for Mireille, the corporation may be humanity's finest opportunity... or maybe a deadly, existential threat.


PrologueI’m Not Awake - 2022

Part 1: La Maîtresse des Échecs - 2023

Part 2: Petra - 2028 (winter to autumn)

Intermission: Mother Christmas (2029)

Part 3: La Double Inconstance (2030 winter to 2031 summer)

Part 4: La Philosophie dans le Salon (2032 spring-summer)


Part 1 considers what remains of a competitive activity when the machines have comprehensively surpassed human-level performance; and the nature of an equilibrium when you can always win through cheating. I had cycling - road racing - and Lance Armstrong in mind when I wrote this part.

Part 2 leverages my own experiences working in an industrial research lab, although nothing remotely as exciting ever occurred. Petra is very loosely modelled after my divisional director; other characters are also variants of colleagues.

Part 3 follows the theme of La Double Inconstance, a romantic comedy by French playwright Pierre de Marivaux first performed in 1723. A young woman, Sylvia, is kidnapped from her lover, Arlequin, by the Prince who intends to marry her. Through a complex series of engagements the Prince and his smart female servant Flaminia conspire to break the Sylvia-Arlequin relationship, resulting in a switch of partners.*

Part 4 follows (very loosely!) a theme from La Philosophie dans le Boudoir, published in 1795 by Donatien Alphonse François, Marquis de Sade. Set in a bedroom, the two lead characters argue that the only moral system that reinforces the recent (1789) French revolution is libertinism. Dolmancé is the most dominant (and evil) of the characters in the dialogues. Eugénie (a fifteen year old) has been sent by her father to be corrupted by him and his associates into libertine ways. The fifth section, a lengthy political monologue, comprises de Sade’s manifesto.*

That short book - French and English versions freely available in PDF format on the Internet - is almost unreadably graphic in places in its gleeful accounts of the most depraved sexual practices. Considered pornographic for centuries, it is now considered an extreme polemic on sexual politics. 

Sunday January 2nd 2022: no more posts for a while

Today I posted the final chapter (55) of La Philosophie dans le Salon. I hope you found it intriguing - it ends on a suitably ambivalent note.

During January I'm going to prepare the whole StarDrop sequence - 102,000 words - for Kindle eBook and paperback under the title Donatien’s Children. I hope some of you will find these formats easier than the bite-sized posts you’ve been seeing here on Booksie.

There’s nothing else in the pipeline right now; specifically, I haven’t decided whether to embark upon a sequel although there’s obviously scope for it. Thanks for reading.

Monday December 6th: daily (M-F) posting schedule from now on

Too many chapters yet to come, too slow a roll-out. I want to wrap it up and get around to putting the whole thing together for Kindle in January. Thanks to the dozen or so people who are following this story, which is about to take another unexpected change of direction...

Saturday December 4th 2021: La Philosophie dans le Boudoir

Some background to the book I’m currently rolling out on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. 

La Philosophie dans le Salon’ follows (very loosely!) a theme from ‘La Philosophie dans le Boudoir’ published in 1795 by the Marquis de Sade. Set in a bedroom, the two lead characters argue that the only moral system that reinforces the recent (1789) French revolution is libertinism. Dolmancé is the most dominant (and evil) of the characters in the dialogues; Eugénie (a fifteen year old) has been sent by her father to be corrupted by him and associates into libertine ways. The fifth section, a lengthy political monologue, comprises de Sade’s manifesto.*

The book - freely available in PDF format on the Internet - is almost unreadably graphic in places in its gleeful accounts of the most depraved sexual practices. Considered pornographic for centuries, it is now considered an extreme polemic on sexual politics.


* Some of the text here has been edited from the corresponding Wikipedia article on the Marquis’s book.

Thursday November 25th 2021: Sudowrite

I posted an article yesterday about the new AI-based writing assistant which has been gaining traction ‘out there’, being widely reviewed in the AI-technical press. I was impressed myself: Sudowrite produces very creditable writing. Some of the functions are like a souped-up Thesaurus and potentially useful to any writer, although the subscription cost is too high.

The main problem is, paradoxically, the very autonomy of Sudowrite’s creative writing process. The experience makes you something between co-author and editor. But since you can’t share with the program any ideas you might have about plot, setting or characterization, you have basically taken your hands off the wheel. The best you can hope for is that some of its suggestions happen to align with your direction of travel.

The sheer quality of generated prose or poems is impressive though, and not just ‘for a machine’. Given a small amount of selection and post-editing, a Sudowrite short story or poem would not be recognisable as such if posted on Booksie.

Where is this going?

Tuesday November 9th 2021

I decided to republish my thirty four short stories from 2019/20 back on Amazon. Yes, you can purchase Freyja’s Deathbed Conversations and other stories for Kindle or as a paperback for the price of a chocolate bar. Just scroll down, past all this news, to the bottom of the page.

An ideal Christmas gift!

What this means is that I basically gave up on getting the stories published by anyone prepared to invest in serious marketing. It's just too crowded out there.

Find a willing agent, submit over and over again: it's just too wearying. 

I expect my current Booksie posting of La Philosophie dans le Salon (StarDrop part 5) will continue through to the new year. There are 54 chapters and we're currently at 19. I hope to package the five parts into a novel and get it out in February - one way or another.

I'm reasonably pleased with it - I think the writing has come on since I've taken to chanting to myself (as I sit to type): Be interested in your characters, they're interesting people!  :)

Tuesday October 12th 2021

My review of Sally Rooney's new novel, "Beautiful World, Where Are You",  has now been posted in Books. It's a great book: I've learnt a lot about  writing interpersonal relationships from the author.

Thursday October 7th 2021

I think I mentioned that I've been trying to get my StarDrop sequence into shape - I'm currently publishing part 5 in chapters, around three a week. Here's the overall structure:

Part 1: I'm Not Awake. Part 2: La Maîtresse des Échecs Part 3: Petra Part 4: La Double Inconstance Part 5: La Philosophie dans le Salon

There may be a part 6, I'm not sure. The whole thing is currently at c. 80,000 words - which is a little short. All these sections are now on Booksie, accessed through my Profile.

Thursday September 30th 2021

Today marks the start of a new book in my 'StarDrop' sequence. 

'La Philosophie dans le Salon' (note the Marquis de Sade reference) is the sequel to 'La Double Inconstance' which you may recall was the Mars story. In this one the ‘models’ - artificial people - are being churned out in droves by the StarDrop corporation. Are they an existential threat to humanity or the route to utopia?

The story comprises 30,000 words in 35 chapters. Picture by Henri Meilhac on Unsplash.

I plan to publish chapters pretty frequently, as I revise them.

Monday September 27th 2021

My apologies for absence. I've been locked out of the site for three weeks - just been getting an 'SSL protocol error' screen when trying to access Booksie. Maybe I've been flagged as spam?

Using a VPN workaround. Hopefully I'll be able to comment and post again. It's good to be back, folks!

Monday May 17th: “StarDrop”

Starting this evening, a new book called ‘StarDrop’. It’s 39 small chapters totalling 21,600 words, the sequel to La maîtresse des échecs and the prequel to La Double Inconstance. You will meet Petra Schelling again, now seven or eight years older.

This story is where we first meet StarDrop, the mysterious corporation behind artificial people, the ‘models’ we saw in La Double Inconstance with the Mars mission. StarDrop is like a new seed planted in Mother Earth’s garden: is it a pernicious weed... or does it portend a gorgeous new flower?

Warning: a pre-reader has lamented that the story is biology-heavy. It will help if you know what the following words mean: nucleotide, codon, gene, allele, genome. The Wikipedia article, “Genetic code”, has way more than you’ll need.

Monday May 3rd 21: "The StarDrop series"

Thanks to everyone who has stayed with 'La Double Inconstance' - the final chapter will be posted this evening. It is part of a novel-sized piece of work which at the moment looks like this:

Part 1: I'm not awake.

This is my cyberbaby story entered into the Rory Gallagher Crime-Fiction Competition. It introduces the idea of AI robots operating autonomously in the world and some of the problems. It’s set in roughly the present time and you have already read it here.

Part 2: La maîtresse des échecs

This is still themed on advanced AI systems and human responses and gives us Petra Schelling, the young chess champion subtly aided by machine systems. This is also set in roughly the present time and you have already read it here.

Part 3: Title to be decided

This is a prequel to  'La Double Inconstance'. The main protagonist is Petra again, this time working for the secret service and investigating StarDrop. After revision I expect to be posting it here in a few weeks time (c. 19k words). It has more of the secrets of ‘models’. Set in the winter-autumn of 2028.

Part 4:  La Double Inconstance

This is the story (c. 20k words, 30 chapters) you’ve been reading. It’s set in winter 2030 to summer 2031, exploring the growing conflict between normal society and the widespread appearance of models linked somehow with the StarDrop corporation.

Part 5: La Philosophie dans le Boudoir

Set a year later (2032 spring-summer) this part wades deeper into the growing conflict between ‘ordinary people’ and the increasing domination of models in the elite. One protagonist is James Melrose, English DGSI agent we meet in Part 2, who distrusts the models and the forces arrayed behind them but doesn’t know why and questions if he should even oppose them. Is he just harbouring reactionary thoughts, is he on the wrong side of history? The dazzling, heterodox Dr Mireille Fossey can help him. Perhaps.

This final part will shed quite a bit of light on the puzzles remaining at the end of Part 4: La Double Inconstance but you will still have to read between the lines. I expect to post this fifth part in the autumn. The title, by the way, is from the Marquis de Sade, an essay you can download from the Internet if you have a very strong stomach and no real sense of disgust. I do not follow the Marquis in those aspects. Not at all.

Wednesday April 14th 21: "Great to see the site back up!"

Just when we thought it was a take-down by a state-level intelligence agency... the site is back up. Excellent!

My current project here, 'La Double Inconstance', is about a third of the way through. I have just reposted the first ten chapters (as a short story) to aid memory for those following it. I'm always in two minds about how to publish a long story (c. 20,000 words). Obviously it can't be posted in its entirety: the site doesn't lend itself to really long reads. On the other hand, a sustained development is hard to sustain in bite-sized posts.

What is to be done?

Bite-sized posts.

The next chapter (11) will be published this evening local time here in a chilly and locked-down city bathed in ever-increasing light...

Tuesday March 30th 21: "La Double Inconstance"

To improve the tempo I'll be publishing a chapter every weekday from now on: Monday to Friday inclusive.

Friday March 19th 21: "La Double Inconstance" (book)

This is a wildly baroque science-fictional embellishment of the play with this title, first performed 6 April 1723 by the Comédie Italienne and written by Marivaux ( A book of 19,000 words, 31 chapters.

The setting is a space mission dispatched to deal with a poorly-understood threat. Our hero is an astronaut, a former combat helicopter pilot. There are missiles, synthetic people and flawed AIs. And relationships.

I plan to publish three chapters a week: M, W, F.

Monday March 1st 21: 'La maîtresse des échecs' (short story)

Previously published as a book of many short chapters a month ago, 'La maîtresse des échecs' is posted here again, this time as a short story for those who like to read things in one continuous text. Warning: at 6,300 words this might take you as long as 45 minutes to read.

In other news, I have a new story in draft which comes in at c. 19,000 words. So this will be posted here in April, after further revisions, as a book of c. 40 chapters. It's a science-fiction story featuring an Adversary, an interplanetary mission and synthetic people. A thriller and a romance as well.

Thursday February 4th 21: 'La maîtresse des échecs'

The Mistress of Chess. A new story in many small chapters comprising c. 6,300 words. As promised in my last entry here. What is it about, apart from the obvious? Lance Armstrong has always interested me, his psychopathic honesty: if you don't cheat you don't win; I was always going to win. And yet in chess, the machines are so much better than we are.

Sunday January 24th 2021: 'Message in a Sealed Letter'

News today that trapped Chinese miners have been rescued. Wonderful to hear. Family reconciliations to come. And then I wondered.

I have known many activist women, dated quite a few. Women devoted to Their Muse or The Cause. Personalities I see in superstars such as Joni Mitchell or Germaine Greer. Something tantalising, mystifying about relationships there - and so to the story.

I have something else in the pipeline: something about chess. Soon.

January 1st 2021: an amuse-bouche - “The Demo”

Lessons from Irène Némirovsky

I’ve been reading Irène Némirovsky’s biography and some of her  novels: All Our Worldly Goods, Suite Française, The Wine of Solitude. Her technique is to sketch in detail the back story of her main characters in their social milieux - invariably based on friends or business acquaintances - and then confront them with the crises and angst of her own situation.

She was a Jewish émigré in inter-war France with truly dreadful parents; her raging, resentful energy brought forth masterpieces.

Her approach is useful. My own efforts tend to prioritise plot over character, to overplay ideas and underplay setting, producing hack work (this is not uncommon). I will try to do better in future stories - my new year resolution is to get to know my characters better.

Meanwhile I am going to inflict one more old-style flash-fiction vignette on you, distilled from a 14,000 word unpublished story which I self-characterised thus:

This has to be one of the worst stories I have ever written. So bad that I was deterred even from posting it on Booksie. The writing is flat, bland, dreary and sterile. The characters are stereotypes lacking interest even to the author. The plot is muddled, contrived and rapidly runs out of steam while never looking even remotely either convincing or even interesting.

Still, even in such a desert there are small sections which may amuse, I promise you no more than that: “The Demo” in 600 words.

Monday December 21st 2020: 'Happy Christmas'

In "The Summer of Love" we met a fifteen year old Simon Caldwell about to seek out his first girlfriend. Three years have passed, Simon is now at college, reflecting upon his feelings this Christmas and the events of his gap year which inexorably brought him to his current predicament.

This will be my last posting this year: Happy Christmas everyone!

Wednesday December 16th 2020

A new short story, "The Summer of Love", will be posted as soon as the site lets me do it (perhaps Thursday now)..

Friday December 11th 2020: At last some new material in prep

Since trying (and failing) to get my best (as I thought) SF stories published in paying magazines, and after being rather brutally rebuffed, I have been musing about doing it better. I've been reading authors who I think have something to teach me: people like Irène Némirovsky (Suite Française, All Our Worldly Goods) and John Fowles (The Magus, The Collector). Authors who write character-driven fiction.

Fay Weldon once wrote indignantly that authors do not write about their own lives or those of people they know, they make characters up from their imaginations. But she was being disingenuous: how many classics are revealed to be thinly-disguised autobiography, with 'just the names changed'?

Where she is right is that memoirs are not stories. Memoirs are life in all its plotlessness, banality and broader inconsequentiality. Stories are how we would like reality to be: clear characters, an arc to a conclusion. In stories there is closure and satisfaction; in our memories of life - not so much.

I have some new stories in preparation. At least one, Happy Christmas, is due to be published here before the day itself. Stay tuned.

Friday July 24th 2020: GPT-3 brought me back: "A Woman of Mystery"

I haven’t been here much - been busy with visitors and other stuff. But I was intrigued by the recent release of the AI text-generation system GPT-3 which has been much discussed in blogs and the broader media. I gave it a work-out in the co-written short story just published here: “A Woman of Mystery”.

Let me tell you that working with GPT-3 is an exercise in futility: you can never get going - you are continually derailed. But with some architectural innovation - I can imagine directions - I see George Orwell's Novel-Writing Machines (in 1984) dimly visible on the horizon...

Monday June 15th 2020: University Education in 2070

A colleague of mine mentioned that his university had just published a series of 250 word essays on the future of learning. What will study be like in 2070?

The academics were plainly not writers, he told me. Their contributions were dry and abstract: it was all virtual reality; AI subliminal prompts and rewards; avatars which improved on paperclips. A conventional future: approved and conformist.

Alumni were invited to contribute - so he wrote three vignettes. I have reprinted them here with permission together with his covering letter.

Strangely they were never published...

Sunday June 14th 2020: a new poem "Honey"

Back in the day when they still did dinner parties there was a trope: the loved-up couple with eyes only for themselves. Couldn't keep their hands off each other. They didn't mean to be so smug but surely everyone could see what fantastic sex they were having. And so to my doggerel poem, Honey.

It helps, marginally, if you have seen the French film Gemma Bovery (2014).

Thursday June 4th 2020: The Tao of Writing

I have been conflicted about my writing, it is true. It is too easy to stray from the Way. I have tried to explain in chapter 4 of The long and winding road to getting published, just posted. Perhaps you will sympathise (thanks!) but that's not why I wrote it.

I also posted a tiny fragment, That Time Was Better, which seems to say something for couples trapped in mutual intensity.

Sunday March 29th 2020: Lockdown Reading

I've gathered my 49 stories to-date and compiled them as a book (PDF). If you're locked-down and bored please feel free to take a look.

Paris has the quiet of the SF post-apocalypse. Even the zombies have decayed to dust. The flics are stopping cyclists and the press is writing about the quarantined rediscovery of sex (faute de mieux)...

Wednesday March 4th 2020: 'Another Chance'

I wanted to name the ship Cassandra. A short story of 1,200 words to be published this evening. Call it evolution in action.

Friday February 14th 2020: 'AI in the Battlespace' (16/2/20 - 8 chapters)

A new story to be published in 8 chapters starting on Sunday evening. I'll probably post Sundays through Thursdays. It's about state-of-the-art application of AI to the military. It's always good to be reminded that we remain in control.

Saturday February 1st 2020: 'Star Child'

I'm rewriting (often quite substantially) several stories you may have seen here before - albeit quite a while ago. Starting tomorrow, Sunday, over five postings you will see the 15 chapters of 'Star Child'.

The idea is to submit these re-posted stories to magazines. Editors seem more relaxed in practice about prior posting to Booksie than the actual Ts & Cs on their websites. I find the discipline of writing for such a select audience here - and more importantly the critical feedback - to be an essential part of quality improvement. OK, let me say this more directly: as I edit material for posting here I cringe at what I see in front of me, at what I previously wrote!

'Memento Mei' is another re-posted story (yesterday) which I continue to look favourably upon though it hasn't got much of a reaction. A slow-burner I guess, a meditation with no action at all.


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Adam Carlton has a background in maths, physics and artificial intelligence. He has this to say: “I'm a heterodox Marxist; I conceptualise and write in the demi-monde of a roiling, turbulent Paris.”

Adam Carlton has had stories published in editions of the literary journal The Ronin Express and by the Aphelion Webzine. His book, Freyja’s Deathbed Conversations and other stories, is available for Kindle and as a paperback on Amazon (link below).


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