lost time incident 09
Hello hello hello. I have found my way into your inbox again. The door was unlocked. Couldn’t find the light switch, so I’m glad you’re here, as I’ve just been imagining that every shadowed shape in your inbox was something menacing.
You ever think about those teleporters on Star Trek? I find myself thinking about them every once in awhile and this last week, I was at it again. In Star Trek, a body on a star ship is taken apart into atoms. Then, miles away, a body just like it is created. We were meant to believe that there’s a continuity of experience for the away team members, but it’s a trick, isn’t it?
Those atoms don’t actually make the journey. They can’t. So the machine must be using molecules on the planet’s surface to make an exact copy of everyone, right down to the electrical pattern in their mind at the moment they were shipped down. Then, as if the human body and its systems were simply clockwork, we’re to grant that those space explorers carried on as before.
Is a human being a collection of molecules? Or is a human being a pattern?
Our molecules change over time. Cells die. We eat, we excrete. We’re much closer to patterns.
That being the case: If you have a machine that can make a perfect copy of you, what’s the value in destroying the original you? Why not just send a copy of you down to the planet and ask it to report back?
And once you’ve done that, why ever pick that copy back up again? Do you need it?
Could you be the sort of space traveler who could knowingly condemn a copy of yourself to death on a planet? “Hey, while you’re down there, can you accomplish this mission of ours?” Do you know yourself well enough to trust that an exact copy of you, down the gravity well, wouldn’t be so resentful of drawing the short straw and finding itself a copy– despite having all the memories of being you, the original– that it wouldn’t do you any favors? That you wouldn’t be creating your perfect arch-nemesis? A betrayed-at-birth copy of you that can’t come home because you used a machine to create it somewhere you couldn’t be bothered to go?
The more I think about this, I guess I’m seeing why you have to disintegrate the original. Otherwise, what’s to stop anyone from creating an army of themselves somewhere? And wouldn’t a just society declare that stranding a copy of yourself on a planet is some form of self-hate crime?
But you and I know. If you step into a transporter and it’s going to disintegrate you, it doesn’t matter what happens after that point. You’re standing in a suicide box. You’re going to experience death. Your pattern may pick up somewhere else with no memory of dying… but the space traveler who stood on that glittering pad and let a computer pick it apart… it’s gone.
Just take a shuttle. I guess that’s the advice I’m giving.
The aliens made contact and they seemed nice enough, so we got used to them hanging around. For the most part, we just wanted to learn about their technology. We were so nice to them during our cultural and technological exchanges that they reached the point where they felt comfortable telling us that we tasted great, if they were being honest. In years gone by, they said, they had eaten some humans, yes, but they were much more humane these days. No more snatching up people in rural areas.
These days, the aliens offered tech and currency for the right to remove a single leg from a human for consumption back home. And they replaced the leg with one that was lighter, more flexible, plus it could store data. It didn’t seem like a fair trade for the aliens, but they said they had these leg replacement things just taking up room on their ships, like 1 gig thumb drives or spindles stacked with CD-Rs were for us.
This exchange, meat leg for data-storing leg, created a new class of wealthy, limping people. You would see them shopping for luxury goods, their legs blinking in sync with their ear pieces, either on phone calls or listening to music. Some social climbers who were too scared to lose a limb would affect the limp and never be seen without pants, just to keep the illusion up.
And I could get used to it, except that condiment companies are now courting the alien demographic that watches our television, whether for entertainment or for study, trying to sell them sauces that improve the taste of our legs through slick ad campaigns and catchy jingles that appeal to the alien’s set of musical aesthetics. The jingles sound like logging saws flapping in the wind, snapping like flags in a hurricane.
I just can’t watch that.
Call me old fashioned.
jeebs and woobster
Woobster was a rich man, but never a bright one, and so when Jeebs volunteered his services as a manservant, Woobster just said “Sure, whatever, here’s where I keep my money, so take a decent wage” and went back to hard-boiling eggs… well, actually, he was boiling half dozens of them, pulling the eggs out of the water at different times, and trying to see if he could catch one at the very moment it became hard-boiled with a well-timed shell-cracking ambush.
His fingers were prune-y from the water and the blisters, as the eggs came out quite hot.
Woobster had a dreadful fear of his Aunt Agnes and came to Jeebs with the problem: a visit was imminent. How could the social call be avoided?
“Not to worry,” said Jeebs, who took a clean spade out of the closet where it rested by the ironing board. He led Woobster out to a nearby park where, is it happened, he had already taken the liberty of digging a grave-sized hole and supplying a comfortable casket. “If you’ll please do me the kindness of reclining…”
Woobster lowered himself in, pushing his manicured fingers into the padded casket’s sides. “Quite well cushioned, Jeebs, well done. But I say… once you’ve shoveled the dirt on top of me, won’t there be— and I’m not trying to impugn your planning or expertise, you understand, and I’m quite grateful for this hiding place where Aunt Agnes is quite unlikely to find me, but— air quality will be an issue, won’t it?”
“I’ve already taken that into consideration,” said Jeebs, tossing an air freshener in the shape of a pine tree onto Woobster’s chest. It fluttered down, end over end, and Woobster had just enough time to remove its plastic sleeve and catch his first scent of chemical pine when Jeebs kicked shut the casket’s lid and the first skittering sounds of pitched dirt started clattering across its surface.
oh no teens
There was nowhere left to go. Every movement was co-opted. The only way to go was back into the mouth of the beast and so the kids in our town started wearing polos with company logos on them and loitered in the aisles of those stores. Staying underfoot.
“Do you know where I can find office chairs?”
A contemptuously curled lip. “Sure, man. I’ll show you.” And they’d lead the customer around the store until they found it, like a real employee, the irony so understated that the only way you’d be able to tell is when the teen never drew a paycheck.
A prom full of young men wearing bright vests, pins on them declaring sales, all the girls with nametags and magnetic keys.
Gang graffiti at the commuter train station. Groups like The 401Ks. The Weekend Crew. Shipping and Receiving. A gang hideout decorated with the clipped neckties of rival crews and pamphlets about retirement communities. The teens filling binders with cut out pictures of toddlers, calling them The Grandkids, comparing them like trading card collections, like statements from a diversified portfolio.
We asked the teens why.
“I’m always happy to help a member of the media,” they said.
“Is there any chance I could get back to you after my shift,” they said, straightening shelves of product.
“I will live in any suburb,” they said, “and drive any vehicle that can hold an entire soccer team. I have sliced oranges in the back. For a snack at half-time.”
Teens teens teens. Why do we ever talk to them. Why do they do anything. When we were teens, it was different. And what are we now? At some point, we changed.
“Can we help you?” asked the teens, but they don’t mean it. They’ll grow out of it.
May I suggest joining Warren Ellis’s mailing list, Orbital Operations? He’s a comic book writer, but also a novelist and avid reader of interesting things. His most recent issue, which came out today, had an interesting stretch about how we’re not, as a species, doing that good a job at recognizing how science is proceeding so rapidly as to make science fiction unnecessary. It’s hard enough keeping up with how weird the world really is.
Here’s an excerpt:
When I rattle around Europe talking about the future, I like to try and refocus people’s vision.
We’ve fired a camera at Pluto that’s travelling at fifty eight thousand kilometers an hour this week. We can now see thirteen billion years into the universe’s past. There’s now a 2D material that appears to decompose within a couple of days but actually remains solid – it just becomes almost completely invisible. Researchers in Paris can stop and store light. A space drive is being tested that appears to break the laws of physics. The PH of a geyser plume on the moon of Enceladus has been identified. Dolphins have social networks. There are six people living in space today, and we have five space robots around Mars right now. At least six new species have been discovered in the last few days. Artificial muscles have been constructed from gold-plated onion cells.
This is all in the last WEEK. This is just the FUN stuff. That’s more serious, important, charged newness than happened in entire years, a millennium ago. Perhaps even ten years.
So if you want to see the creator of TRANSMETROPOLITAN continue to absorb the future, head on over and sign up for that mailing list as well.
ending theme song
Imagine: A rainy night. A mayor sheepishly asks a locksmith to open up the whole town again because he lost the oversized novelty key to the city. Just… patting his pockets, checking the cushions in his car seat. That’s kinda funny, right? Oh man. I bet the people locked inside the city would be preeeeetty ticked.
Oh, wait, I’m supposed to be wrapping this thing up.
It almost never happens, but I’ve got social engagements this week that are going to force me out into view of the oppressive sky, out of my writer’s hidey-hole where I’m safe to craft this nonsense without interference from my enemies like The Sun, and Talking To People Having a Good Time. As such, this installment includes some old stuff from the recycling bin, but you woulda had to be on G+ to have seen it, and I’m pretty sure you weren’t. It’s new to you!
Anyway. I also have to go watch more Daredevil on Netflix. Related: as a thank you for subscribing, I’m giving away a digital collection of Daredevil comics on Comixology that covers the first 6 issues of Mark Waid’s amazing run. There’s not many of you subscribers, and even fewer who care about comics, or have a Comixology account, so I figure it’s safe to just include a link here and say the first person who wants to redeem this code is welcome to a free Daredevil book. (Actually, I think if you have an Amazon account you can redeem it as well, because Amazon now owns Comixology. Eh. You’ll find out.) So if you want it, click through first and it’s yours.
Let me know if you got it. If this works, then I’ll feel more confident about giving away more digital stuff as the mood strikes, so long as I know it won’t go unclaimed.
See you folks in a week.
–Michael Van Vleet