Valois – An Immortality Project (working title) is a work in progress novel that explores the ethical implications of AI, our desire to live on after our death, and our obligations to our children. It is part of a larger effort called the Starholder project which investigates low probability, high impact events which have the possibility to reorient humankind using creative play such as fiction, gaming and worldbuilding.

The purpose of Valois novel is to anchor the kickoff of the far-reaching and wildly ambitious Starholder world with a concrete, creative output that can be delivered in a reasonable time period, simply using the imagination of the community. The game Starholder referenced within the novel Valois will be prototyped and explored alongside development of the novel, but there is no promise of production or delivery of the game. Other forms of expansion are encouraged as well.

The novel will be produced in public using the generative storytelling process and assisted by AI programs such as ChatGPT

Plot Synopsis

Valois – An Immortality Project set in 2039, is the story of a dying man (Charley Valois) suffering from cognitive decline who achieves success later in life, but cannot come to terms with his pending mortality. Charley believes that he could have been one of the great men of his age. He was an early investor in cryptocurrency, but had his fortune wiped out in the fraudulent events of 2022. This experience left him embittered and resentful. After fifteen years of start and stop attempts to achieve success, he has built a thriving company and finally returned to the standing he felt was his destiny, only to be diagnosed with brain cancer.

Valois picks up at this point in his life. It centers around a tight-knit group of friends who meet once a month to socialize and play games against each other. Kendra Godfrey, a member of this group, has developed an AI-driven investment product called Becker that is capable of managing wealth in the style and personality of an individual. The product was custom-designed for an single client, but she feels that a second test subject is necessary to determine its eventual success. Ignoring the wishes of her client, Kendra offers it to the circle of friends provided they keep this second copy a secret.

After some discussion, the group decides to compete against each other in a game where the winner will be the second user. A popoular grand strategy game called Four Moons of America is chosen because playing the game can also double as a training model for the Becker AI. The goal of Four Moons of America is to conquer our solar system using advanced technology. Players must first defeat each other, and then the winner must defeat an alien civilization from which the technology came. The game is played as a series of simulations. Four Moons of America is a difficult and grueling strategy game that is held in high regard as a true test of an operators’ intelligence, cunning and negotiation skills. In short, it is the new game of kings for a generation which has made their fortunes in the technology space.

Charley Valois sees Becker as his opportunity to become immortal. He decides that if he wins the competition, he will place his entire fortune in trust to be managed by the AI which will emulate his own persona. This concept becomes his obsession and winning the Four Moons of America competition becomes his raison d’etre as he battles brain cancer.

Valois enlists the 15th century Dukes of Burgundy from which is surname derives as his AI-assisted war council to play Four Moons of America. The lines between historical fantasy, reality and the game world of Four Moons of America all begin to blur for Charley as winning the game and living on through Becker become his only priority. Charley starts to identify the AI Dukes of Burgundy as his family, assuming the role of Charles the Bold and confusing his daughter Marie with the historical figure and daughter of Charles, Mary of Burgundy.

This shift disturbs his daughter, primary caretaker and interim head of his business, Marie. Charley’s descent into madness is alarming, and no way for one to end their life. Beyond her concern for his dignity and well-being, is the specter of being robbed of her agency. Charley is considering selling his business to a competitor and placing the significant proceeds in a trust managed by Becker. Marie has been de facto running the Valois business for the last three years and is now the acting CEO. She has a radical plan to push the business in a new direction. Losing the ability to run the Valois business or direct the fortune produced by the sale is an absolute betrayal of familial expectations. She resents the idea that her father will haunt her in death, by taking the company away from her and using an AI to issue her an allowance.

The story comes to a head as Valois pushes deeper into the world of Four Moons of America, identifies himself as a great duke of Burgundy and tries to win at all costs so that he can live on through Becker. Despite Marie’s pleas that he prepare himself for death and spend his remaining time with his loved ones in peace, Charley devotes all his remaining energy into a warped, ego-driven pursuit of immortality through AI.

Narrative Structure & Influences

The narrative will draw upon the tradition of Victorian Era frame stories (also known as sandwich stories in which one story exists within another) such as Mary Shelly’s Fankenstein and Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness to form its structure.

It borrows conceits from this era, such as bringing together a cast of characters in a staged event for the purpose of embarking on a great adventure while exploring topical themes introduced by new advances in the sciences and technology.

The relationship between Charley and Marie also owes a strong debt to Jane Austen. In this case, the social structure and expectations of marriage from her world are replaced by the possibilities that AI offer a family patriarch to never release their grip on a family’s fortune and to imprison their children to a life in which the ego of the father haunts the children and descendants for an eternity.

Valois will operate on three levels of space and time:

1. Present Day Reality – A group of friends compete in a grand strategy game (Four Moons of America) to win access to a custom AI capable of performing opinionated financial management of wealth.

2. The Game World – The book follows the competition in the gaming world through the POV of Charley Valois, a dying man whose cognitive abilities are in decline.

3. Hallucinatory History – Charley considers himself a descendant of the Valois Dukes of Burgundy who ruled a 14th century kingdom within a kingdom centered in northern France and the low countries. As his mental state deteriorates, the narrative blurs between the game world of Four Moons of America and a fictional history of European conquest.

While Valois will lean on Victorian framing and conceits, a better plot description of the novel is that it’s Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying meets Ender’s Game by Card with a dash of the TV show Winning Time: The Rise of the Lakers Dynasty thrown in.


The Valois Family

Charley Valois –

Marie Valois – A 40 year old, married, mother of two and acting CEO of the Valois business. The crux of the story centers around her relationship with Charley Valois and whether he will sell the business and place his fortune into an AI trust, thus robbing her of agency and the ability to direct the future of the family. There will be strong parallels between her and the historical figure Mary of Burgundy who also acts as a member of Charley Valois’ AI war council within the game. Marie will be the primary Valois heir to interact with Charley and act as his care support system in the advanced stages of his illness.

She will play Four Moons of America with Charley early on, not realizing that she is setting the groundwork for her own imprisonment, but as Charley sinks deeper into obsessive madness, she’ll start to realize what is going on and abandons him to his game, forcing him to replace her with Mary of Burgundy as the surrogate.

Marie serves as the moral compass and anchoring point around the theme of generational stewardship of family.

Chad Valois – Potentially some disinterested doofus stock character who is fine to go along with the flow as long as he continues to get money. He may express relief that he is absolved of responsibility by having an AI taking over his inheritance. More depth is needed here, but we need to develop a disinterested counterpoint to Marie that is accepting of technological change for the comforts that it provides at the expense of personal freedom.

The Gaming Circle

Are a group of five friends who meet once a month for the last ten years to socialize and play games against each other. Their ages span from 45 to 67 years old. They are part of a wider social circle of US based coastal elites who populate the highest levels of tech and media. In addition to Charley, four other characters are present:

Kendra Godfrey – Kendra is an ethically dubious technologist who has spent her career working in the AI field. She is a stand in for the mad scientist archetype, and has previously appeared as an antagonist in the novella, The Last Network. After being removed as CEO of NAM, Kendra found herself unfundable within the Silicon Valley corridors of power, but in demand as a consultant, fixer, and builder of custom applications and prototypes that were best not publicized. Her intelligence, wit and rogue status as someone playing hard in the shadows, makes her a compelling figure within the industry and a popular invite to social events. It was at a charity Settlers tournament that she first met Arun Shan and was pulled into the group.

Jensen (no first name given) – Jensen is the cad, the playboy, the bon vivant sprung from an Oscar Wilde novel. He is good at everything, yet commits to nothing because he cannot come to terms with the modernist bargain that technology fulfills all our comfort needs while depriving us from true joy and freedom. He loves Kendra dearly, but recognizes the dangers that eternal opinionated capital (his description of the Becker AI) offers. Should he win, he’ll devote the system to writing poetry in the marketplace and treat investment as performance art. In line with his personality, Jensen will deploy a Four Moons of America war council featuring historical troublemakers who were the vanguard of challenging the status quo of their respective ages.

Arun Shan – Arun is the establishment. He is a hyper-competitive person that enjoys high stakes games and thrives on understanding the inner workings of organizations and how to manipulate them for his own personal benefit. As such, Arun has followed an idealized playbook to greatness having attended Yale for undergrad, then Stanford for his MBA. After graduating, he began his career at an east coast media and communications powerhouse where he built a reputation as a rising star. Five years in, he leaves to found an upstart challenger which then feasts on the carcasses of his legacy competition. Arun is now fifty-five and beyond life as a working operator, instead managing his family office where he acts as a behind the scenes power broker for the industry at large.

Petra Malkin – Petra is the academic drawn to action. She’s the type who’d have been a member of the MIT blackjack team as an undergrad and sees the Starholder game as a way to LARP as Indiana Jones. She is a galaxy-brained professor at UC Berkley focused on game theory. While her initial investigations came from the fields of mathematics and probability, she’s grown bored of that field of inquest and has gravitated towards the psychological and philosophical drivers of decision making. Petra is an avid game player, who is nationally ranked in contract bridge and has been known to act as a ringer for wealthy individuals in exchange for research grants to her foundation. She is a personal friend of Kendra, and frequently teams up with Jensen for charity matches.

The AI House of Valois, the Dukes of Burgundy

To play Four Moons of America, Charley Valois will enlist a war council of AI-powered advisors who are modeled on the historical Dukes of Burgundy.

Philip II the Bold –

John I the Fearless –

Philip III the Good –

Charles I the Bold –

Mary the Rich –

Four Moons of America Character Play Style

Kendra – is the administrator/adjudicator of the game. She’s recused herself because it is her AI that is the prize and she needs to act as a supposedly neutral third party. However, she is unreliable and biased. The person she built the AI for is a rather conventional thinker. She is going to root for Jensen or Valois to win because their personalities serve as a better differentiated test subject than Malkin or Shan.

Malkin – is going to play in the style of England. Believing that control of the sea (or in this case space) is a good differentiator from the conventional style of territory conqeust that Valois & Shan are going to pursue.

Jensen – is going to model himself on Venice and their Stato da Mar ( as his center of power by getting heavily involved in asteroid mining and controlling resources that can prove to be a supply bottleneck. That is primarily to remain relevant in the game. His real passion will be supporting rebellion movements within the other’s empires and controlling strategic positions that block the other players from expansion.

Shan – The Ottomans, particularly their conquest of Constantinople. He is going to go after Earth and Earth only, believing that the population and resources within it are worth everything else in the star system. He is going to eradicate the competitors from the starting point on the moon, then focus his empire building on knocking out Earth’s electrical systems through EMP blasts, then rebuilding it’s grid on the one hand while also building an army capable of subduing its inhabitants.

Valois – The Valois Dukes of Burgundy. Mars is going to be his dream. An early setback in the game is going to leave him disadvantaged, and he will have to cede Earth to Shan. This places Valois on the outside looking in at the best prize in the solar system. Mirroring the history of the Dukes of Burgundy, Valois will seek to create a kingdom within a kingdom by abandoning designs on Earth (symbolically representing France) and settling for the next best thing (being Mars) within proximity of Earth. NOTE: this section needs more work.

Working Notes:

1. Four Moons of America is a grand strategy game that simulates a conquest of our solar system. The game begins on the moon where an alien civilization setups up a colony with advanced terraforming, energy and space travel technlogy. The goal of the game is to take over enough of the solar system and generate enough economic activity that the aliens return. The end goal of the game is to defeat the aliens and assume control of the solar system without the threat of Aliens unseating you.

2. Four Moons of America is actually a metagame. It is a training tool and competition in which 4 people are competing to win an AI that will manage one of their fortunes on behalf of the heirs of the winner.

3. Henri Valois is one of the 5 competing to win this. He came to wealth later in life and one of his great regrets is that never achieved the tycoon status that his ego aspired to. He’s also suffering from declining cognitive ability. His other passion is studying European history, particularly the aristocratic maneuverings of great houses as they schemed and married and consolidated power over generations. He is possibly distantly related to the Valois Dukes in Burgundy who briefly created a kingdom within the kingdom of France before overextending themselves and getting cut down.

4. Kendra Godfrey is the developer of the AI system.

5a. Henri keeps secrets. His gaming gang does not know he is dying. His daughter does not know that he is playing Four Moons of America to win Becker, sell his company and place her future in trust.

5. Valois ethical dilemma should he win (and he will of course) is whether to place his fortune into an AI managed trust and haunt his heirs the same way that the decisions of the Charles the Bold haunted Mary of Burgundy who basically ended up in a rock and a really hard place after his death.

The challenge is that the AI is learning to mimic and become Henri based on him playing the Four Moons of America game at a time when he’s losing his shit, dipping into the fantasy world of the Dukes and becoming very unreliable. 6. To play the game, Valois as asked the 4 great dukes of burgundy and mary to act as his war council. Other players have their own war councils as well. This is all the setup for a novel that works on 3 levels:

A. Henri Valois’ interior mind state as he loses his grasp on reality, mixing up history, his desire for greatness and immortality and winning the Four Moons of America game.

B. A commentary on technology today, the ethical implications of AI, the dead haunting the living by controlling capital beyond their death (addressing Boomer generation al wealth transfer or lack thereof) and whether or not Henri will deprive his adult children of their agency by placing his fortune in trust under the control of his AI

C. A technothriller adventure story about the battle for control of the solar system via the Four Moons of America game. This lets us bring Starholder to life through fiction. Prototyping something that could serve as a launchpad for that project. with all that said….give this set of conversations I had with OpenAI a read. while the prose is a bit stiff, it’s ability to grasp all of this and give contextual replies is impressive and something we can work with.