Madeline Ashby's Hieroglyph story: "By the Time We Get To Arizona"

The Hieroglyph anthology was created by Neal Stephenson, challenging sf writers to imagine futures where ambitious technological projects improved the human condition.



But the stories we produced (I have a story in it, too) aren't blindly optimistic: they are critical contributions to the discussion. They aren't optimistic or pessimistic about the future: instead, they are hopeful about it. Ashby's story doesn't predict that science will make us better: it tells us one way that we can use science to make us better.

This story builds on Ashby's Master's thesis a project on borders, human rights and authoritarianism.

The buzz in Ulicez's molars intensified as he drew nearer to the border. They'd said it would help him find his way; so long as he kept north it would keep humming along, a tiny siren song buried deep in his mouth to lead him ever onward. Really there was no need for the chip to vibrate, but the folks from Mariposa said it had to do something more than just tell the drones where you were all the time. It had to add value, they said. It had to be user friendly, so Ulicez and all the others wouldn't have sat in the dentist's chair for nothing.

They could have put the chip under the skin, but then Ulicez might have been tempted to pick it out and sell it. So now it sat there in one of his teeth. He didn't know which one. They'd put him under for the surgery, and there were a couple way in the back, on the right side, that really fucking hurt. But they both felt just like bone when he ran his tongue over them. And neither one ached any more than the other when he sipped from his canteen.

"Why are you walking?" his mother had asked. "They said they would send a truck for you. You know, a truck? With air-conditioning? Like they did for Elena?"

Excerpt—"By the Time We Get To Arizona," by Madeline Ashby [IO9]