Prosthetic envy. That was the theme of the Virtual Futures Salon at the end of last month.
Three out of four panellists had prosthetic limbs and were keen to talk openly about what that meant for them. One of them was James A.H. Young who you may have seen on the BBC recently.
They told their stories, pondered and discussed what had led to them having prosthetics, how good their limbs actually are and what the general public’s reaction is like.
Surprisingly, they had stories of people exlaiming how ‘cool’ the prosthetics are and asking how they could get one. To which, of course, there’s a reply which includes, ‘you’ll have to cut a limb off first.’
Luke Robert Mason introduced the evening, referring to Limbo ’90, which is a book I read as part of my research for the evening’s story, Loans for Limbs. It’s a 1950 book by Bernard Wolfe, billed as being the first book to “project the present-day concept known as ‘cybernetics’ to its logical and terrifying conclusion.” It’s well worth a read.
Here’s me reading Loans for Limbs for the first time in public.
Afterwards, some of the audience asked me how to get a written copy; if you join my mailing list before 17 June you’ll get it in the June email a few days later.
Roger and Dimitri were holding hands and had been ever since they’d grafted their skin together to show the world they were a couple. After hours of intimate debate they’d decided that permanently holding hands was the most powerful symbol they could think of.
‘Up yours, body beige,’ shouted Roger.
They raised their clasped hands in a fist salute and with their free hands they touched the lips of the Picasso masks they were both wearing and gave the group of jeering men the middle finger.
A young woman with a tough-girl walk spat on the ground in front of them.
‘Thank you for your kind offering,’ he said and stepped over it. They’d provoked this sort of anger ever since they’d started to change their bodies. Others, more sadly in their view, had simply copied their modifications. Even more depressing was the banal media tittle tattle about their day to day bodily functions. He adjusted his mask. ‘Fuckers. It still upsets me,’ he whispered.
Surgically attached to his inner arm was a perfectly scaled clone of Dimitri’s left ear. He stroked it and Dimitri smiled as the gadgetry transmitted the feeling from the clone to his real ear.
It was their opening night and fans had gathered outside the gallery. As they approached some of the fans lifted their arms to show copy-cat cloned ears and a few had even gone as far as joining their hands together.
Brain hackers, brain professors, brain artists, the human brain project, a brain curious audience and me.
We were all there for the Virtual Futures Salon about NeuroStimulation.
It was my first ‘gig’ as the Author in Residence and I have to say I thoroughly enjoyed it. The venue was a bar in Soho, London and the place was buzzing with conversation, debate and towards the end with electricity being zapped through some willing brains.
My story, written especially for the evening, is set in a call centre of the future and based on the notion that NeuroStimulation has become the everyday way of boosting your brain.