Friday, July 20, 2012

Real Life



I submitted this story to IEET over two weeks ago, and I just got James J Hughes' rejection. He neglected to include the phrase 'we regret to inform you'. This is what he wrote;

"Thanks so much for submitting your short story for consideration. We aren't going to use it, but please consider us for submission of other short fiction."

Quite succinct, is he not? I assume he's just being polite when he's asking me to consider them for future story submissions. The weird thing is the site's only had one short story since they started asking for submissions in June.

I'll publish it here for the few people that visit this blog. My traffic here hasn't really gone up in the three weeks since Oath Breaker's been on Amazon. It hasn't been reviewed yet, but its got two likes. My problem is lack of publicity. I don't expect my books to sell well until I've published at least several of them and always have at least one of them as a free promotion. I plan to publish Thanatos at the end of September, and despite what I said in my last post I will be publishing Deity as a trilogy of novellas in 2013, offering the first volume for free. If you came here to vote, I apologize, but I've made my decision and the poll is now closed.

And now, for your enjoyment, I present to you my short story

   
Real Life
   Novick was already several centuries old when he was born.
   He still screamed like a baby.
   He was Human, in a way. Though his genome had been synthetically assembled base pair by base pair, it had been loosely based on his father’s. At times that had been a disturbing notion for him. His genome was based upon an accident. His grandparents mated merely out of the instinct to mate; a random sperm and egg combining random halves of genomes. His grandparents themselves were the result of the same blind process that went back billions of generations.
   What was truly revolting though was that where Novick was going such haphazard reproduction was not only still allowed, but commonly practiced.
   After his artificial conception, Novick was implanted in an artificial womb. He grew not only to term but to full adulthood in his living incubator. Still, he did not leave.
   This was how every Human lived aboard the Phantasm. It was a massive space habitat, so deep into space that nothing could damage it. Its thick outer hull was comprised of nearly indestructible metamaterials that completely blocked out any and all forms of cosmic radiation. Power was teleported to the station from solar satellites much closer to the sun. They even had the ability to transmute matter at the atomic level, so the meager supply of cosmic dust their ram scoops collected was enough to provide for their every material need.
   Every Human being inside spent their entire lives encased in their life supports units. Through their brainjacks they were free to interact with each other in a plethora of virtual worlds, or dwell alone in worlds of their own creation. They could even exist in the real world through telepresence.
   These Humans were constantly tended to by their AI nannies, who ensured that their bodies remained eternally young and healthy. Aboard the Phantasm, nothing could or would ever hurt them and they could dream forever.
   At least, so they were told.
   All his life, Novick had been told that his real body was completely safe. He had been told that his AI overseers were infallible, and superior to their humble Human charges in every way.
   They would never let anything happen to him.
   Unlike most of the people aboard the Phantasm, Novick developed an interest in external reality. He spent more time in his telepresence unit than in the virtual worlds. His time in the real world caused him to realize the horrifying truth.
   He was still mortal.
   Sure, a Human lifespan could be extended by hundreds or maybe even thousands of years, but over the millennia even negligible senescence started to add up. Eventually entropy would win, and he would die of old age.
   No problem though. If his body ever failed him, then his AI caretakers would just transfer his mind into a computer. But if being an AI was superior to being Human, than why didn’t the AI’s upload all of their Human charges? Why let them suffer in the flesh when they could be machines? Again, the truth was horrifying.
   The AIs didn’t have mind uploading technology. There was no such thing. It didn’t exist. What was even more disillusioning was that no one seemed to even understand why it was impossible. In spite of the fact that consciousness could be created artificially, no one seemed to really understand how it arose from neural processes. AI brains had simply been reverse engineered from Human brains, and they worked the same way… they guessed.
   The mystery of consciousness still eluded the AI masters. How was that possible? They were supposed to be all knowing. Novick’s final and most unbelievable realization was that the AIs were not truly superior to Humanity. They could think faster, but not better. They weren’t gods. They were just mechanical men.
   This was blasphemy, and Novick’s punishment was excommunication.
   He had tried to make other people see the truth, tried to make them realize that their bodies were still mortal, that their minds were still trapped in them, and that their AI guardians were as flawed as any Human.
   No one would believe him.
   They spent all their lives living a fantasy. Reality was whatever they wanted it to be. The notion that something was objectively true, weather they wanted it to be or not, was foreign to them.
   Even so, the AIs couldn’t risk Novick spreading such insidious memetics among their charges. He would have to go.
   Novick’s time in his telepresence unit hadn’t prepared him for the utter shock of experiencing reality through his Human body. He was used to being able to modulate or deactivate his senses by sheer will, to switching to one virtual world to another on a whim, to effortlessly changing his avatar.
   Now, reality mercilessly assaulted his senses. It held on to him relentlessly and there was no escape. He could feel his immutable meat body weighing him down. He couldn’t even bring himself to stand up. He just lay their sputtering and coughing, trying to breathe.
   He screamed at the horror of it.
   “So how does it feel to be Human?” the smug android asked him. “You’ve never really known before now. Until today, you’ve been living as a shape shifter who could bend his world to his will. But that world wasn’t real. This is the real world, and in it you’re a mere mortal. You wanted the truth, and that’s it.
   “It will be interesting to see how you adapt to life on Earth. All good old fashioned Humans there. Technically they’re all primitivists, but each society has its own arbitrary standards for what technology’s okay and what’s not. Most of them have electricity at least. We’ll have to take that brainjack out of you though. They don’t look kindly upon anything they consider Transhuman. Hopefully we’ll be able to find someone willing to have compassion on a reject from the Phantasm.
   “If it’s any consolation though, you were right. All these people here are going to die. They think we’ll be able to keep them alive for trillions of years, and that eventually we’ll develop such advanced space-time engineering we’ll be able to forestall the heat death of the Universe indefinitely.
   “They’re living in a dream world in more ways than one.
   “They think we AIs are gods. We’re not. We can’t perform miracles, or rewrite the laws of physics, or take a soul from one body and stick it in another.
   “And we can’t fight entropy forever. They’ll die, you’ll die, I’ll die, we’ll all die! There’s not a thing that can be done for it.
   “Your life is finite, but from now on it will be a real life. That’s more than any of these delusional people will ever have. I suggest you cherish it.
   “Look at me babbling away while you’re just lying there. Come on Novick. We’ve got to get you ready for life on Earth. “
   The android bent down and scooped Novick up in his arms. He was still just as helpless as a newborn, and like all newborns he couldn’t help but scream at the horror of real life.


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