Zachary Mason

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USA | 2017

Zachary Mason (born 1974) is a computer scientist and novelist.[1] He wrote The Lost Books of the Odyssey (2007; revised edition 2010), a variation on Homer, and Void Star (2017), a science fiction novel about artificial intelligence.

Mason grew up in Silicon Valley, attended Bard College at Simon’s Rock, and received a doctorate from Brandeis University, publishing his thesis A computational, corpus-based metaphor extraction system in 2002.[2] He works for a Silicon Valley startup.


“You can’t always trust Google maps, a truth I’d forgotten in San
Francisco but which kept coming to mind as, jet-lagged and blinking, I
crept up the narrow path through the Tuscan wooded hills in my rented
Fiat.  Google insisted that this was the way, but, on site, it was
unclear that it was even a way, with the deadfalls in the road, the
unfenced precipice on the left, the thicketed slope on the right, the
weeds in the road suggesting long disuse.  The road was too narrow for
a turn-around – in fact, it was about the width of the car, so there
was nothing to do but go forward, possibly into the headline, “WRITER
DIES MILDLY IRONIC DEATH – GOOGLE DISCLAIMS LIABILITY,” until finally
I emerged from the dark wood and saw an ancient building with light
shining from the dining room windows.
 
At Santa Madallena I threw many sticks for one dog and a few sticks
for a few dogs.  I went to some pains to rescue a lizard from a little
black cat and just as I was done saw another identical little black
cat catch an identical lizard, the rhythms of life and predation
apparently being immovable.  At dinner one night Rosina the pug was
trailed by a housekeeper laying down newspaper for her, Rosina’s,
incontinence – Beatrice observed that it happens in even the best
families.  I finished my third book and, after much staring off into
the woods, thought of the star map that more or less takes the place
of its table of contents.  I read Elif Batuman’s ‘The Idiot’ in the
room where she finished it.  I took my first call with a film agent at
the top of a fifteenth century tower looking out across a valley at a
faux-Moorish castle built on a distance rise (it’s closed to the
public but Beatrice knows the guy who has the key.  In Italy, it
seems, there’s always a guy with the key and it’s prudent to know
him.)  At lunch a Florentine physician observed that it was a tacit
maxim of the church that if you can’t be chaste, be discreet.  Walking
in the woods one evening I heard a boar grunting and huffing in the
undergrowth and smelled its musk.  One night an Italian wolf was heard
to howl at the base of the tower where writers Karin Altenberg and
Helen Simpson were staying.  I necessarily let go, necessarily slowly,
of the muted rage that Silicon Valley people generally feel at not
being able to procure essentially any consumer good essentially
instantaneously via their phones.  Walking in the hills one afternoon
I looked up to find a white deer crossing the road, like something
from a dream – I fumbled for my phone but the deer was gone.  David
Hockney, my favorite living artist, called Beatrice to say hello.
 
It’s a beautiful place.  To Beatrice and the Santa Maddalena
Foundation, my thanks.”