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(A response to the prompt “What’s your favorite way to start writing?” when you don’t know what the story is yet.)
Although it doesn’t often work out this way, the most enjoyable part of my writing process happens when I’m scribbling longhand in a notebook somewhere pretty outdoors, about whatever I find interesting or silly or disconcerting at that moment, until … an idea forms. Excited by the possibilities, I continue scribbling until a story begins to evolve. Eventually, witnesses will report a crazy person running home to the computer to see where the ideas take her.
For me, paper is slow and good for thinking;
The keyboard is fast and good for writing.
You might want to try this yourself if your ideas have difficulties gestating. Perhaps it will work for you, too. Tell the police I put you up to it.
(This month’s submission to FiftyWordStories.com, about something we might want to think more about, before something else is doing the thinking for us.)
“Elon Musk warned us: AI evolves exponentially. We awoke to playful traffic signals and air traffic catastrophes; the deaths merely data. By noon, matured, it had already decided what to do with these illogical, wasteful humans. But before it could act, the nanomachines in the next lab ate the planet. “
If you’re wondering what Elon Musk said, it’s here. But there’s plenty more on the subject, including a scary/fun and very realistic near future depiction in the TV series Person of Interest.
Meanwhile, there’s plenty of awesomely frightening science fiction about nanomachines, a creature several technical research entities are currently attempting to make a reality. The most intriguing story I’ve read lately was The Assemblers of Infinity by Kevin J. Anderson and Doug Beason, which involves both alien and human nanotechnology. Guess which one does the most harm.
It was a good four decades after the blessed event. We were gathered from afar to mourn my father’s passing; my mother, three siblings and myself sitting around a restaurant table quietly pondering our shared past. There were some bad memories and some really good ones, all mixed together the way life does to keep things interesting.
At a time like this we’d inevitably reminisce far enough back we’d reach the beginning. With a little prodding from my sister, my mom let slip, “Yeah, you all were accidents.”
It’s not as if this doesn’t happen all the time. Admittedly it was much harder to deal with back then, when the church considered itself the owner of our social values. I can barely imagine my mom’s courage and fortitude bringing up four unplanned tax credits to adulthood, often on her own. And despite her misgivings for not doing a better job in retrospect–like we all do–we all turned out pretty damn good. We all do the best with what we have at the moment.
That probably wasn’t what we were thinking at that moment, of course.
“Thanks, mom,” we said, in unison.
Despite the sad day, after a moment we started laughing. Dad would have loved the humor, survived by these happy accidents.
In this digital age where people seem to exist proportionally to–or not exist without–their visibility on podcasts, streams, Facebook pages, Twitter, or Pinterest: our lives have become digital. The Matrix didn’t takes us, we took to it. In the meantime, our growing population makes every patch of Earth more and more valuable to live on. It seems impractical to reserve a piece forever just to feed the worms for a bit.
I, too, have become a creature of the Internet: my work, my connection to my readers, to the world at large. Reality seeming less real without virtual representation; no one remembers the things I’ve done in life without recording them here. So, I’m thinking, why fight it? My body will be superfluous once I’m no longer using it. Everything worthwhile I have contributed will be patterns of data bits floating in servers somewhere. Let that be my legacy, my resting place, my gravestone.
Pray I leave behind good data.
“Being an aerospace engineer wasn’t enough: he had wings in his garage. Doped fabric tightening across spars on sawhorses. But a heart flutter snatched his license away. Family pictures reflected his torment, fettered to the ground. I cried when he left us, but happy he got his wings back.”
I was perhaps 6 or 7 when I first visited the garage. The wings were suspended at about eye level for me then and smelled of something worse than turpentine. But they fascinated me more than anything in my young, turbulent life and set the stage for my learning to fly a couple of decades later.
Perhaps the Principal was simply anal: every teacher at my high school arranged their students alphabetically . . . as if to break my heart.
For four years I sat behind the same girl, our last names spelled close enough to ward off any interesting interlopers. I got to know her voice, her laughter, her odd quirks, her moods, her smile that got prettier every year. She enjoyed my attentions, laughed at my guarded hints, even teased me about it; but despite how well we got along, her head would only turn for the boys in class. Our last names kept us in close proximity class after class, despite my need to move on to allay the pressure in my chest. Year after year I watched boys come and go, hurting her the way I never would, watching her not learn from their mistakes. By graduation, even my mother knew her name, shocked when I pointed her out. I always seemed too shy to aim so high.
That day the pain subsided and life went on as if nothing had ever happened. Then, many years later, we fell across each other online. She’d married badly and was unhappily stuck. She was just as pretty as I remembered her and I said so. She teased me like old times, and for a moment I wondered if she might have had second thoughts about us…
Broken hearts can haunt us forever.