lauantai, 3. marraskuu 2018

I gave you my heart (John and Mary pt II)

Oh honey, I know how it feels, Mary's sister Emma said. She had once caught her now ex-husband in bed with her best friend. Hurts like a knife to the heart.

You have _no idea_, Mary wailed. She clutched her chest, trying to rip it open. Emma had to admit she had a point. Emma's broken heart at least had been her own. This was worse.

Eventually, she would have to tell Mary the lawyer had been unambiguous (though compassionate). There was no legal way to get her original heart back from the woman who now had her John's affections.

lauantai, 13. lokakuu 2018

Two hearts are beating, together

Can't you two just get married? We'd pay for the wedding, their parents pleaded. But John and Mary shaked their heads. It was impossible to express their deep commitment in a few ceremonial words. So their teary and distraught parents and grandparents and friends gathered to witness their ultimate romantic gesture.

My heart beats only for you, Mary and John said in unison. They kissed passionately. It was a serious moment. Maybe their last.

Now lay down already, the cardiovascular chirurgeon said. You'll know if the operation is succesful. (He excelled in heart transplants but his bedside manner was awful.)

keskiviikko, 26. syyskuu 2018

The Clone Army, a Story in 10 Drabbles

I

Had his plan gone undetected, it would have ended the galactic democracy. Soldiers loyal only to their emperor would have fallen upon the inhabited planets like lethal rain, unstoppable. Fortunately, a data analyst (an unsung hero armed with diligence and statistics) detected a pattern of suspicious shipments to a remote area; machinery, foodstuffs, biological materials... A task force went to investigate, and none of the weaponry they brought 'just in case' was, after all, in excess.

The wannabe emperor was executed, even if his scheme was some 15 years from fruition. But they just couldn't kill the whole clone army.


II

Did someone say flippantly ”just nuke them from the orbit”? Clones, created by a madman with an evil plan, trained only for war. No-one would miss them. Perhaps a swift death could even be considered a mercy.

But it would be a genocide of unprecedented proportions: a billion lives. Such a crime would taint the galaxy forever. Clones or no, a billion six-year old kids. A billion pairs of round brown eyes, two billion quick feet, ten billion nimble fingers used to the weight of a plasma rifle rather than toys and games. The whole thing was a terrible tragedy.


III

If you met just one, you could never guess there was something unusual. They were thoroughly tested, of course. Apart from their traumatizing upbringing, nothing was exceptional. Perfectly regular physiology, no mysterious powers, all of them in robust health (go ahead, guess what had happened to the unlucky few with even minor ailments). One normal kid, repeated a billion times.
Decisions had to be made. It was tempting to continue using the infrastucture already in place. There were canteens and gyms and endless rows of beds. Why not let them grow to adulthood in the surroundings they were used to?


IV

But it would be too risky. Though their father-emperor was dead, someone else might attempt to continue what the wannabe emperor had started. In a few years they would be attracting mercenary recruiters like sugarwater lures flies.

Mistreated children inhibited from developing a sense of individuality. A ready-made army conditioned to follow orders. They were vulnerable and a threat at the same time.

They needed to be split up, sent somewhere else – anywhere else than this place which was built to encourage conformity and a feeling of being utterly interchangeable. They needed identities. A sense of self. They needed names.


V

It was a huge ceremony. It had to make a lasting impact on the kids (who hereafter wouldn't be called clones, at lest not officially). And since it was way too late and anyway impossible to keep the billion kids secret from the general galactic public, it was broadcast all over. The food synthesizers had produced a mountain of candy. Combat practice halls were decorated in cheerful colors. Emotional music played.

Volunteers, millions of them, handed out a small bag of sweets and a name for a brown-eyed, excited kid after another. Not two of them got the same name.


VI

The adoption campaign was one of the rare instances where the galactic council overrode local objections. The kids had to be scattered around, to as varied environments as possible. Everyone had to do their part. Of course there was suspicion, concern and outright resistance, despite all the research proving the kids were physically and mentally like any six-year-old would be, if he had been living in a gigantic orphanage and subjected to violent propaganda. And admittedly it was unnerving – the legacy of a power-hungry tyrant, now coming to your planet! Into your home! With strict orders to love and cherish!


VII

Settlers terraforming barely habitable planets were eager to get a batch of guaranteed healthy, medium intelligent children already used to hard work. They did not bother to worry about whether the tyrant had planted some devious command to the kids' brains, perhaps activating decades later. Despite rigorous psychological screening, someone always cracked. It was a fact of life. So vague rumours of possible threats did not stop them from welcoming their share of the kids.

Some more sophisticated communities had to be strongly encouraged to do their duty. Adoption organizers were authorized to shame, evoke pity and use political blackmailing.


VIII

They had grown up knowing they would one day leave the planetoid. That it was not the start of an intergalactic war and that they went forth in comfy, colorful clothes, instead of combat suits, clutching name tags not guns, did not concern the kids. It was an adventure anyway.

A million kids would be herded to a large intersellar transport vessel. Later they would be split to cohorts of ten thousand or so, one for each receiving planet. A few hundred to a large city, maybe a dozen to a smaller community. And never more than two per family.


IX

They were already beginning to differentiate from each other, much to the relief of everyone. These developments were monitored closely. Responses to events were no longer identical. Some were welcomed to their destination with authentic smiles, and they started smiling back. Some were received with thinly veiled hostility, and became withdrawn and secretly bitter. Sometimes the families went to great lenghts to undo the early damage, others were accepted as-is. Quite random occurences shaped not only their minds but also bodies. You could actually tell them apart by now. This one was pudgy and tanned, that one slim and stooped.


X

It was one of the largest coordinated operations in the history of humankind... probably the largest, actually. But after a while, it stopped feeling in any way exceptional. They reached puberty and nothing special happened. Then came the d-day they would have been launched towards unsuspecting planets – the result was a hundred thousand drunken assaults and violent meltdowns, but revenge of the aborted empire from beyond the grave? No. Those expecting doom any minute now were a bit more disappointed every day.

Only a handful started a revolution, attempted a coup or became local tyrants. Less than the statistical average!

torstai, 13. syyskuu 2018

Random thoughts on Ninefox Gambit and money

Recently read Rajaniemi's Summerland and Yoon Ha Lee's Ninefox Gambit, two books which feature magical/technological systems which forcefully shape society and even reality. Ninefox Gambit especially, it has this system which is at the intersection of mathematics and common beliefs, created by what people believe in and in turn changes reality where the people exist. And there are many other recent books with a similar theme.

What's with reality-affecting belief systems? I have a theory: since 2008 market crash, and the panic surrounding it, the relationship with one very basic building block of reality has been nervous and shaky. Economy, money. If that's not a magical system directly affecting people's lives, I don't know what is. It's closer to a god than most other things humankind has come up with. It is an invisible force which gives us plenty of undeniable good. I would not be writing this thing here, well-fed and well-clothed, on a fancy machine precision-built from rare metals sourced from all around the world, if we were living in a hunter-gatherer society with no concept of money – complex systems of trade which make our lifestyle possible just are not possible without money and the many layers of meta-money and derivatives building on top of each other. (As an aside, I'm really irritated with myself that I understand so little of how economy actually works. It's difficult to make sense of the world without having a good grasp how money moves around and what forces rule it. But every time I read a book on economy and money policy, it seems to jump directly from plain obviousness "people want to acquire necessitates they don't have" to cryptic formulas "(Zt=p)+i x t, where Z is the national gross production and t is the interest rate" and my mind starts to wander and suddenly I want to clean the oven or write  a short story or learn hindi, as if understanding economy was something best avoided, like sticking one's hand in a dark hole in the ground. Rationally I find it important and interesting field of stuy, but emotionally it's the opposite. I think this whole fiction writing thing got started when one summer I decided to tackle basic books on economy, borrowed a pile of them from library, and then got hit by a strong urge to write sf romance stories I'd like to read myself. Great way to confuse myself from the original plan, brain!)

But back to where was I… Economy in a very concrete way also punishes people, smiting them down, really hurting them and to at least third generation if not longer. It does not exist in the physical world, not since the invention of debt, and these days hardly at all,and yet it has such a profound effect on _everything_. Up to and including causing the conditions for and hindering any attempts to stop the end of the world. To understand our relationship to this moody and untrustworthy god, fiction has to be written. To accept that we are at the mercy of a system we have created ourselves, for better or for worse. Maybe to remind ourselves of the absurdity of the situation. Perhaps to view this system from the outside, to see if there are ways to change its course? But is this useful line of thought? Is our economy an all-or-nothing deal? Could we cherry-pick just the good and not the bad? I have no idea. I hope someone who has actually read through all the economy textbooks comes up with an answer. Preferably soon.

sunnuntai, 2. syyskuu 2018

What I'd like to write

I know what I want to write, it just refuses to come out the way I want it to. I guess there's no other path to take me to the spot where I can write what I'd like to read than practice. Faustian deals seem to be very scarce. I haven't been offered any!

Particularly what I would like to write is a love story with a emotionally satisfying happy end but aside from the love plot things would go horribly wrong in a distressing way, so the reader would exit the story with messed-up ambivalent emotions. Hopefully be a bit nauseous too. It's just damn hard keeping both sides balanced.

Another story I'd like to write is in two parts, from different perspectives. Both parts would be stand-alone, and preferably published separately. Reading them both would reveal neither protagonist has any clue what the other one is thinking and both have drawn totally wrong conclusions.