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Chatting with Akis Linardos

Akis researches traumas that stop people from being themselves, his Radon story's central Ship of Theseus metaphor, the meaning writing gives life, and his upcoming cosmic horror chapbook, Crooked Gods.

Chatting with Akis Linardos

Akis is a writer of bizarre things, a biomedical AI scientist, and almost human. He’s also a Greek that hops across countries as his career and exploration urges demand. Find his fiction at Apex, Heartlines Spec, Apparition Lit, Gamut, and visit his lair for more:

Akis is the author of “My Ship Remains” from Radon Issue 7.

Q: How has your career as a biomedical AI scientist informed your writing, particularly for “My Ship Remains”?

It definitely gave me tools to understand AI from its roots and use terminology that is valid. There have been other works of mine where I go deeper into hard SF that makes sense under our current knowledge, but here I’m touching on consciousness, so I use wilder personal theories of mine. My main purpose of writing this one was sparked by the idea that childhood is essential for sentient beings to process the world.

Q: Why do you think the following phrases often appear in your written works: generational trauma, body weirdness, non-conformity, existential dread, and eat the oppressors?

I write reality as I see it to vent and explore. Generational trauma, non-conformity, existential dread, and eat the oppressors are all touching on the same root that troubles me: The things that stop people from being themselves (family trauma and oppressors of all kinds), and the things that jolt us into action to embrace our true colors: non-conformity, a resistance to fitting uniform boxes not made for the shape of our souls, and existential dread because if we only live once why should we care what others think? It all will vanish.

Body weirdness is my primary weapon for expressing those things: a mother that slowly burns herself in the fire without dying to feed the flame of the house (published in Apex), or people turning themselves to plants to remain productive cogs in the system when they age (forthcoming in Apex). It seems like using body horror in such surreal ways works for me to add symbolic value that is lost to no one.

Q: How do you balance scientific work with science fiction writing? Do you have lightbulb moments for stories at your day job?

During my day job, I might come up with vague ideas to explore, or to continue something I’ve already started, but I can’t say that “eureka” moments come to me during my science work. They come when I experience life.

Q: The conflict between open-source technology vs. corporate ownership of technology is one your Radon story centers around. How do you see that playing out in our reality?

When it comes to research, open-source mentality is embraced heavily in the fields of biomedical AI, which gives me some hope; however, the actual applications need maintainers, and maintainers need to be incentivized.

Q: What do you feel are the current hotspots for speculative creativity in Europe currently?

Still figuring it out, really. In terms of Europe, I’ve thus far met plenty professional writers from the short fiction space in Athens so to me this is where I go to meet up with creatives, but it comes easy as I’m Greek.

Q: What sort of imaginative possibilities does writing SF open up for you that scientific study and research don’t?

Oh everything. I wish I could say the day-to-day research job is an exciting creative exploration as we see in movies, but it mostly feels like a grind: clean up the data, pass it around models, find which works best. SF is where I get to truly play with ideas, imagine long-term implications, and on rare occasions come up with concepts that influence my day job. This has happened once so far, as I’m now circulating an ethics perspective paper for generative AI, which I first explored in an SF story of an android figuring out its own moral compass.

Q: Your story utilized the “Ship of Theseus” metaphor as central to its story. In what ways do you feel this concept is so relevant to SF/transhuman stories?

It’s the main question of transhumanism, isn’t it? How much of us remains when we add cybernetic parts, how much when we transfer our whole consciousness elsewhere. To me this question is already answered by biology: our parts are replaced in a micro-world beyond our everyday perception. Cell fragments are replenished by our food, in little bits, until a year passes and over 80% of our molecular material has been replaced. Since our coding remains though, we remain, and at the same time we change, we’re in constant flow, growing and evolving as people. Transhumanism would just be guiding that process toward a different, precise goal.

Q: What meaning does writing give your life?

Writing saved me from depression and it gives me an outlet where I can reshape my frustration with the world into beautiful dark shapes.

Q: Which published academic paper of yours are you most proud of, that you keep coming back to for inspiration or sharing with others?

The AI ethics paper is definitely the one I’m proudest of, but it’s not yet published as I’ve only begun circulating it across journals. I’ve previously published work in various AI fields, improving algorithms here and there, but I’m hoping to eventually be fully on the AI ethics domain. It’s what we need.

Q: Tell us more about Crooked Gods, your upcoming cosmic horror chapbook?

My existential dread itch started when I had a nightmare in high school that god was real, but evil. An omnipresent being gives comfort to people, but feeling watched always had a creepy aspect to it. In this chapbook, I gathered poetry and short fiction of malevolent gods to which humans are puppets and playthings, capricious gods of Greek mythology, and on obscure beings at the end of cosmos. It will be released in July. Hopefully it will give you all a good nightmare or two as well.

Q: What software do you personally use to keep track of your submissions and rejections?

Google Spreadsheet. I want bare-bones stuff for customizability.

Q: Now with dozens of published works under your belt in only a few years, where do you hope to go from here?

Taking a healthy break for starters! But this year I began focusing on novels as my story bank has grown large enough to keep submitting for a while. The novel will focus on generational trauma, body weirdness, non-conformityin a secondary world I’ve been building for a while where the magic system is based on probabilities and free will (I already have one story in that world recently published in Gamut). Also, as magic should have a cost, the cost is mental health, severely. A product of our times.

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