It’s a well-known saying among writers that you have to read to write. I imagine that’s the same for any craft – the more you see of other people’s work the better your own becomes.
I’m in the fortunate position at the moment of being the lead-curator for a series of science fiction events themed around the near-future (links to them are on my future events page). This means that not only do I get to read all the submitted stories and choose the best with my co-curator, I also get to hear the authors read their stories on the night.
And, it may sound like a cliché, but it really is a privilege.
Talking of which, it’s also incredibly pleasing that Vector, the critical journal of the British Science Fiction Association, has published an article on the thinking behind these Near-Future Fiction events.
During my visit to the Bristol Robotics Lab I heard about the danger of human shaped robots because we naturally attribute them with human qualities they don’t have.
This got me thinking about artificial intelligence that’s embodied in non-human forms but still shows human type behaviour. After all, it’s coded by humans and learns how to behave from humans.
That was part of the inspiration behind The Mythical Moss.
Over the past few months, a film of me reading this story has been in the exhibition, Only Human: Believing the Strangest Things, Loving the Alien. The exhibition recently ended so I can now share the exhibit with you.
I hope you enjoy the story and it doesn’t cause you to spend too much time wondering about what might be lurking in the nooks and crannies of your life.
photo credit: dreaming_of_rivers Intimidation via photopin (license)
‘Henry. You can tell a lot from someone’s footwear,’ his mother had been fond of saying.
He stared at his feet, lost in thought about his parents’ prenatal decision to enhance him, the embryonic Henry, for a life of fully fledged privilege. A high-performing human.
His shoes were scuffed, dirty and fraying where the plastic upper was coming loose from the sole. His whole body sagged with despair. Although, looking along the neatly lined-up feet of the bus queue, his were no worse than anyone else’s; public transport and poverty must be symbiotic, each dependent on the other.
In contrast, a pair of hand-made soft leather shoes stood a few feet away in the gutter. Nice trousers too, but why the hi-vis jacket and protective gloves? Aha, a streetcleaner. An extremely rich streetcleaner if he was willing to work in such expensive shoes. They lived in an effortocracy and no matter what Henry did or said would change that.
What a fucked up world.
Despondent, Henry continued to wait passively in the queue which he suspected was almost entirely made up of the morning’s appointments at the same assessment centre that he was being forced to attend. This poor struggling batch of humanity would be cajoled into behaving properly, to fulfil their potential. Made to acknowledge that they’d let themselves and everyone else down. Continue reading