Friday Read! “The Lifecycle of Software Objects” by Ted Chiang

Ted Chiang, as they say, needs no introduction — if you follow the contemporary science fiction and fantasy short story scene. In case you don’t, Chiang is a powerhouse, not only one of the masters of the short form, but also someone whose work can always be relied on to be strong. Is some better than others? Sure. But it all shows his characteristic attention to detail and deep consideration and analysis.

My favorite of his is actually “The Short Story of Your Life and Others,” but alas, it’s not online. Instead I give you this one, to which it was my honor to lose the Hugo.

The Lifecycle of Software Objects” by Ted Chiang:

The Life Cycle of Software Objects

Ana’s half expecting to see a fantastical landscape when the window refreshes, but instead her avatar shows up in what looks at first glance to be a daycare center. On second glance, it looks like a scene from a children’s book: there’s a little anthropomorphic tiger cub sliding colored beads along a frame of wires; a panda bear examining a toy car; a cartoon version of a chimpanzee rolling a foam rubber ball.

The onscreen annotations identify them as digients, digital organisms that live in environments like Data Earth, but they don’t look like any that Ana’s seen before. These aren’t the idealized pets marketed to people who can’t commit to a real animal; they lack the picture-perfect cuteness, and their movements are too awkward.

Read here.

Friday read! “This Is a Ghost Story” by Keffy Kehrli

Keffy Kehrli is a too-often-overlooked writer. This is my favorite of his short stories.

My parents raised me on a diet of jazz, big bands, musicals, and classical music. I’ve never spent much time listening to more recent popular music. “This Is a Ghost Story” is about Kurt Cobain — but even for me, who has no connection to the source material, it was still intense and affecting.

(By the by, if you like listening to short stories, you might be interested in Keffy Kehrli’s LGBTQ podcast, Glittership.)

This Is a Ghost Story” by Keffy Kerhli

Bench in Viretta Park, tribute to Cobain, wikipedia

On a muted television:

He smirks like he’s found the way out of an impossible maze, like he hasn’t a care in the world. Except that if you look in his eyes, you’ll see the breadcrumbs leading right back to the labyrinth. You’ll feel a memory of unrelenting stone walls and know that it wasn’t necessarily a bad feeling, being held. Suffocating.

Turn up the sound too late for the question.

He runs cigarette–stained fingers over the stubble on his chin and leans on the arm of the leather couch. He crosses his legs, skinny jeans worn and ragged. He’s still wearing old Chucks with the tread half–gone, even though he could buy a thousand new pairs. He doesn’t wear the Mister Rogers sweaters anymore. Sometimes he still wears dresses for the fuck of it, but today he’s wearing a white t–shirt that looks like his kid doodled on it with four colors of Sharpie. A bloodied stick man holds a shotgun.

He licks his lips, and he doesn’t look at the camera, or at the floor, or at the interviewer’s face. He’s focused on the space between, like it’s a gulf or a fence or a wall. He says, “Yeah, it was pretty rough for a while, you know. I kept saying things were getting better, but really they weren’t. Eventually it was clean up or die, so…

“I started thinking about doing music for other shit, not because I needed the money, but to fuck with people. Then I thought maybe I’d do a Disney soundtrack, but it’d probably end up like in Fight Club where the guy’s splicing porn into kid movies.”

Then the interviewer asks about his kid, and he grins. “She’s great,” he says. “I know that’s not very ‘punk rock’ of me, but whatever.”

What are you looking at? This interview never fucking happened.

Read here.