Tactical Awareness: 100 100-word stories about the uneasy sense of living in the Uncanny Valley
TACTICAL AWARENESS is a collection of one hundred SF short stories, each of them one hundred words long.
I wrote it to get rid of a mood by condensing it and writing it down: the fascinated, uneasy sense of having relocated into the Uncanny Valley without quite meaning to, and the landscape does listen, and didn't we use to have winters? As catharsis it proved an utter failure, but I think it works as a (partial!) commonplace book of things we're doing we probably, by and large, should not.
I can't tell my son how every rich city first envied, and then bought, the ubiquitous automated gun networks the military developed to make occupations safe for the occupiers.
I could explain that the guns were taught, he has lived all of his life with machines that learn, but how could I explain that they were taught in a place where kids are seen as potential security threats?
All I can do is hold him tight when he mourns his classmates, and tell him his teachers are right, he should never run when there's a security alarm.
The Black Ships
They are painted white to help cool down the containers, but everybody calls them the Black Ships, just like everybody knows their flags are meaningless. The money for the retrofitted container ships is American and European, and the reason they anchor near the coast of every war and disaster is that they will take passengers for free, but not to either place.
Nobody knows where they take them. But they know what they are running from, and when the containers are nearly full they push their children aboard however they can, and remain on the rafts watching them leave.
The Lotus Clause
They didn't take my car; they made it forget my hand. For years it had opened to my touch, and only mine.
I sat on the curb and cried.
One day, months later, the bus ignored my face and demanded cash,. The people behind me looked away, embarrassed.
Now I'm standing at the front door of a house that's asking who I am.
Only the street cameras know me, but they couldn't care less. I take my gun and try to make them.
But the gun lies inert in the unrecognized palm of my hand.
The two of you are covering the door, guns steady. Only somebody desperate robs a store in an CrowdCop zone of Austin, but this situation is what you downloaded the app for: be close to a crime, respond quickly, protect lives, make a buck.
Somebody runs through the door, and you almost shoot before seeing it's a fleeing woman, but the other man has already fired. The woman falls. It takes five seconds for your phone to beep: you know what for, but the other man takes one second too long to realize.
This time you shoot first.
They say the last whale wasn't harpooned: when she knew herself the last, she sang one last song and let herself drown. The last whaler sold a single copy of that song.
Having lost them, we still had recordings, and eventually reconstructed their language. Not one of things but of flowing seas and growing fear. Understanding broke our hearts.
The last song was, appropriately, translated last. I had bought and kept it secret, so I would be the first to know its meaning. After I did I destroyed it and told no-one.
It was a command: Hide.
Carla ordered these cheap Bic mechanical pencils. I tried one out and I actually like it a lot. The lead diameter is 0.9 mm and it has a number 2 lead inside. It also contains one extra lead in the barrel. A 24-pack sells for about $.25 a pencil. They are supposed to be disposable, […]
Know Yourself is a set of 60 cards to prompt you to examine your beliefs. Example card: “List five things that are important to you in your life. How much of your time do you give to each of these?” The back of each card offers advice to make sure you answer the questions in […]
My life-long work of performance art is to somehow maintain my original passport: notwithstanding the life and opportunities of a techno-nomad.
Ever since the days of the Apple II and the Macintosh, if you used Apple products, you knew the score. Apple has their own way of doing things — and as a user, you either get on board with their proprietary exclusivity…or you go find a new device. Even today, handling simple operations like backing […]
Retro cool doesn’t get much cooler than the Polaroid. Even in the age of smartphone cameras with digital images that can be texted to friends almost the second after they’re taken, there’s still something old-school awesome about a camera that spits out a real, tangible photo you can hold in your hand. When Polaroid dropped […]
Sometimes the best way to learn is to find something you really like and try to copy it exactly. Sure, it won’t be an original creation, but in understanding how the bones were assembled to construct this thing you love, you’ll likely learn valuable insight into why those decisions were made. Armed with that knowledge, […]