04 September 2009

"Newbody Does It Better"

By Curtis C. Chen

Two men in a bar.

"Why don't you like talking to Lisa?"
    "Come on, man."
"No, really, tell me why you don't like talking to my wife."
    "Dude. It's not your wife. It's a computer simulation running inside a robot."
"It's not a simulation. It's her mind—all the same thoughts, feelings, and memories—just running on a different substrate."
    "Wow. Is that straight out of the brochure?"
"This is a common misconception. We don't make a copy, we perform a transfer."
    "Are we going to have this argument, too? It's information. There isn't some magical brain energy that gets siphoned off and deposited into the newbody. You scan someone's skull for activity patterns and program the newbody's main computer to replay those patterns. Hell, that's not even a copy. That's mimicry."
"Look, I can't talk about it in detail, but—we know it works. One hundred percent, no doubt, it's a perfect transfer."
    "And I should just take your word for it?"
"You'll just have to trust me. It's a big deal. We've been working on this problem for a long time, but we're not ready to tell the public yet."
    "Wait. You said 'problem.'"
"No. Sorry. Poor choice of words. It's... an issue we have to resolve."
    "What's going on?"
"You are not getting a story out of this."
    "Wouldn't dream of it. Come on. Off the record."
"I can't."
    "Will this big secret convince me that Lisa is not a robot?"
Laughter. "If this doesn't, then nothing will."
    "Jeff. You can trust me."
A pause. "We can't talk in here."


Two men in a taxicab.
    "I swear. On the graves of all my forefathers, I swear. I will die before repeating any of this."
A deep breath. "Okay. You're right about how we initialize the newbrains. We scan the biological brain to reverse-engineer the physical neuron structure. Once we have that information, we manufacture the newbrain, imprint it, and power up the newbody."
    "I'm not hearing any secrets so far."
"You were wrong about one thing. We can be certain that the newbrain is an exact duplicate of the original. We know when it works, because the old brain stops functioning."
    A pause. "What?"
"When we power up the newbrain, the old, biological, human brain stops working."
    "Because you destroy the old body."
"No. This is what I'm telling you. The old brain just dies. Immediately. We don't know how—"
    "Wait. Wait! What do you mean, it dies? You're just making a copy of some energy patterns!"
"We're duplicating a mind at the quantum level. Apparently the universe won't allow two identical minds to exist simultaneously, and the newbrain supersedes the old one because it's more durable. This is our current theory, anyway."
    "Christ. If you're right, then you could kidnap someone—anyone—just by scanning them and imprinting a newbrain somewhere? Fuck, you wouldn't even need a body!"
"Yeah. You see why you can't tell anyone?"
    "I think I'm going to be sick."
"Well, you did have a lot to drink."
    "That's fucking hilarious."


Audio: "Newbody Does It Better"

This is probably as close to a fully produced audio drama as you'll get out of me while this is still a one-man show. Editing is fun, but searching for appropriate sound effects is a real time sink.

And believe me, if I could have found a cheap way to legally include the Marvin Hamlisch tune as intro/outro music, I would have. (Sixty seconds of a karaoke track might qualify as fair use, but I'm not pushing my luck.)

Music: Instrumental stems from "The Future Soon" by Jonathan Coulton, licensed under Creative Commons.

SFX: 'Two Cars Passing By' from PacDV free sound effects.


Dollhouse Sucks

Let the flamewar begin!

But seriously, folks... I like Dollhouse just fine, and I'm glad it's getting a second season, but I really felt like the show was spinning its wheels for the first five episodes. Others agree. Some quite vocally.

Man on the Street was good, and Epitaph One was very good. But what does it say about a series when its best episode is the one that takes place outside of its normal continuity, doesn't feature the regular cast, and which the network didn't even broadcast? Maybe that Joss Whedon should stop messing around with suited humans and just go make whatever he wants.

Anyway. Many science fiction writers have explored the idea of mind transfer and duplication, and the philosophical implications of identical people. Just to be clear, this is not cloning--a clone is just a time-shifted twin of the original. A duplicate also has the same memories and personality as the original. I don't know that my take here is original, but it's new to me. I might explore it further and see where it leads.


31 August 2009



"[B]e prolific. Keep generating new ideas for a variety of media. Don’t get hung up on trying to get your one masterpiece published or sold. If you only have one good idea, you’re in real trouble."
- Lisa Klink, TV writer (Star Trek: Voyager, Martial Law, and more)

As I approach the end of this year-long experiment--only one month left to go now--I'm thinking about whether I want to continue doing weekly flash fiction and this podcast.

On one hand, it does help me generate a lot of new ideas and try out different premises and characters; on the other hand, recording the podcast and editing the audio and posting to the blog takes a fair bit of time away from writing other, longer pieces that might actually sell.

On the gripping hand, it keeps me writing even when nothing else motivates me. And that's a good thing. Writers write.

But before I get too deep into thinking about ways I could change up the 512 format, let's have a show of hands. How many of you out there want me to continue with 512 Words or Fewer: Year 2? (I'd also like to get an idea of how many humans are actually reading these stories.)

Please take the survey or post a comment here on the blog. And thanks for reading!



Music: instrumental stems from "Chiron Beta Prime" by Jonathan Coulton, licensed under Creative Commons.