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DayBreak Fiction: “No Dominion”


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No Dominion

Christopher L. Bennett

There are a number of widespread misunderstandings about fiction set in a future where things have changed for the better. A major one is that in a better society there is no room for conflict. Well, that is simply wrong: if a future is better it doesn’t mean it’s perfect. Nevertheless, a lot of people immediately replace ‘better future’ with ‘Utopia’ and subsequently ‘Utopia’ with ‘boring perfect place’. This is simplified black-and-white thinking, which quite often is one-directional, as well: there are thousands of ‘plausible’ ways in which the future goes down the drain, but the moment one writer tries to depict a better future, that extra light is immediately blinding and all-encompassing.

Or maybe a better future could mean one where the grayscale is just a bit more light?

Similarly, when we talk about immortality—or longevity, or extreme longevity—then the default assumption very often is that this must be a very bad thing indeed: see, for example, Four Arguments Against Immortality (on io9). And even when a more optimistic person tries to highlight the positive sides of longevity (Four Arguments For Immortality), the comments are mostly against it. Again, a lot of the thinking here is a reduction to the black-and-white sides of a topic, not the more realistic approach of a grayscale.

Again, maybe the positive effects of longevity may outweigh the negative ones?

The danger of seeing only the positive sides of a new development is underestimating the dangers—a good point that, unfortunately, is made ad nauseam and often the only point made. The danger of seeing only the negative parts of a new development is overlooking the huge potential benefits in the near and farther future. Obviously, both aspects need to be investigated: but I strongly suspect that a huge majority of the SF community is blinkered by looking at the negative aspects of future developments only.

Therefore, should airflight pioneers like the Wright brothers have stopped their efforts because flying was too dangerous? Should medicine pioneers like Louis Pasteur have stopped their efforts because curing too many people will lead to overpopulation? So should we stop research towards longevity (which basically every medical advancement is doing), as well, because it will increase overpopulation (keep in mind that in most countries that experience higher life expectancy, like Japan, Germany, France, Italy and Holland—to name but a few—the fertility rates are decreasing, as well)?

Now, let’s go to a future that has pushed back death, where a lot of things have changed for the better, and where there is still plenty of room for conflict . . . and murder.

A lot of people think homicide investigation is easy these days, now that you can just interview the victims.

Generally, they’re right, at least in the industrialised world, and increasingly elsewhere as death prevention gets more affordable. The majority of homicides anymore are crimes of passion or stupidity, committed by people who didn’t stop to think about emergency cerebral oxygen supplies and secondary circulation pumps. Typically you just have to wait until the victim wakes up and ask who killed them.

(I know you’re wondering, why not call it attempted homicide, then? Some people do. I don’t. I’ve died myself, and let me tell you, reversible or not, there’s nothing impermanent about it.) Continue reading

DayBreak Fiction: “The Notebook of My Favourite Skin-Trees”, v2

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The Notebook of my Favourite Skin-Trees

Alex Dally MacFarlane

Alex Dally MacFarlane is — as far as I can see — on a rather extended wanderjahr. My sister did something similar more than a decade ago, and eventually she wound up (via East Asia and Japan) in Australia, where she basically hasn’t returned from (apart from several family visits): she’s an Australian citizen now. I don’t know if Alex will return to her native England, but she sure seems to have fun travelling, and if that leads to stories like “The Notebook of My Favourite Skin-Trees”, then we all are all the richer for it.

Also, while my original intent with my Twitterzine @outshine was mainly to promote the SHINE anthology, I was (and am) happily surprised by the way it attracted talented writers and interesting pieces that were — as I found out later — hypercondensed forms of a short story. One of these was a tweet from Eric Gregory that was directly related to “The Earth of Yunhe” — his SHINE story — and another was a tweet from Alex Dally MacFarlane (published on Wednesday July 15, last year, which I’ll display below) that was directly related to “The Notebook of My Favourite Skin-Trees”.

A woman grafts a miniature, nano-engineered breed of fruit to people’s skin. Orchards travel the world and seed onto garbage heaps.

The actual story, as you can read below, goes quite a bit further, though…

BANANA

The best part of these are the fruits, growing on their fat stem, dangling down the person’s back or from their arm. I always bow and smile, asking, “Can I taste one of your fruits? Bananas from a skin-tree are so sweet.”

So sweet and so small, a single mouthful.

I also enjoy the place where banana tree meets flesh, roots curving over and into the person’s limb — pressing my lips there, my tongue — and the small shade cast by the leaves. Continue reading