|10-28-2015, 11:41 AM||#2|
Joined: Mar 2013
A story. By “noogan” written for bahaiforums.com
An ape was doing his job. A gorilla, actually. Boosted by cheap opensource nanocleaners improving the synaptic connections in its brain, with a bit of grafted cloned australopithicus frontal lobe grafted on, mountain gorillas made excellent, if short-lived replacement workers for Universal Convergence Loading Dock 7A Vancoueattle.
“Fekaj simioj!” Noknok said in esperanto, overlooking the scene from the break room, as the silverbacks were helped off gangway of a visiting airship. She gave them the finger, “Damned scabs. We haven’t even started yet.”
Pacific heard and saw the outburst, trying to relax in some music he’d been listening too. “They still can’t ask questions. Did you know that?” he asked, ending the symphony piped into his inner ear and stretching.
“They don’t need to. They only follow orders.” Nok Nok was agitated. The break room, normally a choice of hues and subaudiable tones chosen for relaxation had been hacked to vibrant crimsons and threating pulses to stir up solidarity among the dockworkers. A drumbeat around a fire. It was having an effect. “Until their lobe burns out and they die hemorrhaging. Monkeys.”
Pacific did not deny it. “They have about six months of good work life until they do, though. Still, interesting. Every boost-animal so far still cannot ask questions. Or won’t. Same thing, really.”
Nok paced back and forth looking down, “Complete violation of our labour contract, is what it is, if we still had one. This is going to be a regional strike P. It’s only going to grow now. I won’t ask again. Are you with us?”
They’d been through this before. “Nok, you know me well enough to know that I cannot. My personal religious principles..”
“..won’t get you bargaining leverage. It’s like this. Change is coming. If you’re not with us, you’re working for the other team, up to your ankles in gorilla shit, too.” She finished for him, expounding. The five minute horn sounded. More airships were coming, their spidery frames supported by dozens of teardrop Lorenz thrusters hovering as they distorted spacetime dangerously around their immediate vicinity. They might come from anywhere at this distance. Mars, Beyond Colonies, even through the Abyssal Gate into one of the alternate Earths, most of them barren save for lichens, wandering spiritual abscesses felt but not observed, and endless plains of algal mats. “Stand with us.”
The crews were lining up. It might well be the last time a full human crew worked these docks in months.
“Nok, it is not as if I do not care about it. Our situations are the same. I am not on anyone’s side politically.” he tried to explain again carefully, “It is written in Some Answered Questions that.. “ but his voice stopped and he began to discuss a news report about a missing herd of ibix from some news reporter in Swahili. She’d evoked the Freedom from Religion clause and his voice would not be heard for the moment. Time for work, then.
She broke him off, “Desist. At least I know that you desire to help us. It’s a start.” She said, feeling like she’d scored a point on him at the foosball table.
His voice returned, as he signed off from the Tanzanian broadcast. “Wanting ain’t shit.” He said, quietly.
She looked at him, curiously. They’d both had lust-decliners injected while on jobsite. Standard business practice for corporacratic liability. Still, one always was aware of subtext. It was written in her brown irises, spiraling like some forgotten Minoan syllabary. He couldn’t read the writing. She’d told him as much, once.
“Wanting is everything, sometimes.” She said quietly.
He got up and stepped into the small silvery birdcage form of his exoskeleton as it assembled dropped into place around him. “Have you ever wanted to kill someone?” he asked.
“Of course not!” she answered sharply.
He gave her a knowing look from the clear mask of his work helmet and snapped his lifting palps in some meaningless gesture, “But you didn’t, anyway.” He saluted and said “Alla u’Abha.”
No one had seen a picketing in decades. The recreationally unemployed had gathered to observe, while journalists made a few comments, holographically captured for dramatic view below the docking spires. Everyone waited for mistakes to be made. But the cargo containers were lowered to the earth, and the dull, slowly-dying primates did the job.
Without work, the crews would lose their virtual licenses and be forced into realbody within weeks. Most were poor, like Pacific, and could not afford conscious life in the real world. They’d lie among the dormant Popsicle men and woman of the thanopolis towers, waiting for population decline, or lottery assignment to return to the world of the living.
Out of curiosity, Pacific checked with his exo-suit’s computer what the year actually was in “real time.” Kamal 7, BE 301. One forgot. He’d been here only 17 years. By his dream mind’s accelerated reckoning, it has been over 147 years. So he never gave it much reckoning, anymore.
As he gripped and carefully attached graphene mooring ribbons, so thin they could be said to be two dimensional,infinitely sharp and dangerous, the temptation once again came to just hop those airships and leave for elsewhere. Of course, there was no elsewhere, or rather, it was poorly understood. Maybe the entire simulation was still controlled by a governmental entity creating challenges for those that remained dreaming for the benefit of the quick-lived wealthy. Or, perhaps the ships really did venture out, and he could board. The universe should be boundless. He didn’t like the idea that the sum of his existence was spent in an ancient amusement park dark ride, with back-lit windows promising rooms beyond that were not there.
“What valley am I in, today, oh God. The same one for 147 years” he said to himself.
The strike was getting violent at the gate. It was week three now. Some anarchal-philanthropist had deposited virtual credits into the striker’s accounts. They could persist for months and might well do so with no alternative. The gorillas were showing signs of fatigue. What they did not understand, they could not query about. And so they made mistakes. It was a game of attrition. Meanwhile ,the cargo kept moving.
Pacific kept clear. But today, gazing at the mooring line he was instructed to detach, from a passenger airship bound for Somewhere, he could imagine the way the earth had once felt, the wind on his face, good raw free-range winds in unpredictable eddies and fragrances and stenches. The open sewers and the rat meat sellers of the zinc-shack community he’d grown up in, before the mandatory sleeping began, before the sleep riots. Sleeping strikers pelted police with nothing more than epithets. It would be something more virtually physical soon. Somewhere. He had air in his suit for hours. They wouldn’t find him till it was too late to turn around. They’d have to take him aboard, on their way Somewhere. No one ever wrote back from somewhere, but then maybe they had no reason too.
“What direction shall I pray towards, when I have arrived hence?” he asked himself, laughing, as he leapt, gripping the mooring line of the departing ship like an umbilical cord, watching the world depart below him.
Last edited by noogan; 10-28-2015 at 12:18 PM.
|11-02-2015, 08:39 AM||#6|
Joined: Mar 2013
David Marusek, China Mieville, Keith Roberts, if I were to name a few. The two former are current, the latter is long since pushing up daisies and out of print. Marusek has an incredible ability to show a post-humanist near-future world that is very different, unrecognizeably so, from our own. Science fiction writers tend to forget that sometimes. They want to write what they know with some scientific idea or two tacked on, but the truth is, just now, our lives are radically different from that of our ancestors three to five generations ago. They could not comprehend much of what we regard as essential parts of our lives. Getting beyond that and yet making a coherent and understandable story has to be a difficult task.
China Mieville is just an incredible world builder, doing so in a way that is socially relevant to the reader today. His books have a message behind the message behind the message, and it's okay. This ain't dreary preachy stuff, it is enjoyable getting a glimpse in his head. I doubt seriously there will ever be a film adapation to Mieville (seeing how scared producers are to try a William Gibson adaptation, makes me think it wont be attempted any time soon), so for wider audiences he may remain not as well known.
Keith Roberts, the Thomas Hardy of science fiction, I think one day he'll be better remembered than he is right now. He definitely influences me any time I write anything.
These days I read more flash fiction than novels, so I cant really name too many other novelists. Long fiction doesn't interest me as much as it used to, and the much I see TOR and and the other publishers lined up at Barnes and Nobles depresses me as a writer if I look at it too long. But if there's any hope for fiction right now, its in the short fiction field. Check out flashfictiononline .. amazing stuff in many genres.