edward How do you feel about the slowly emerging reveals of the reality presented here?
I enjoyed piecing together the idea that the narrator belong to some kind of alien and completely unrecognizable form of life, and that they were subject to quite different sorts of constraints. I guess that was hard to miss once the narrator was dissembling and observing the mechanism of their own brain.
As much as I hate giving it to that pro life alien comic guy, you can sometimes have a good bit of a fun just explaining things in very descriptive language. The mechanism of a human brain and brain surgery would sound equally as bewildering and complex if you described it like this.
I was also fondly remembered one of my favorite creators of alien species and cultures, Iain M. Banks (rest in peace). I was reminded of some of his more creative alien species, such as the Issorilians, aka The Affront, from Excession, who:
require a high pressure, low temperature environment, and breathe an atmosphere composed mostly of nitrogen and methane, plus other trace hydrocarbons. Source: some Culture wikia.
I very straightforwardly love stuff like this, and just thinking about the potential mechanisms of life out there in the infinite expanse.
I liked the use of human-adjacent biological terms like brains and lungs, especially by the end as I began to interpret this as a sort of diegetic translation of the narrator’s text into English rather than a magic author transmutation of an alien language into direct meaning.
I think besides what is straightforwardly stated, I like what is sort of left unsaid. This seems to be a species of life which does not age or die, which is stated at least semi-directly, but what seems to have been left unsaid is that it also perhaps does not propagate. There is somewhat of a suggestion I thought that this species is a supremely pacifist one since the narrator is aghast at the idea of killing, and there is some implication that although killing is not unheard of, it took a widely accepted monumental existential crisis for killing to take place. Also seems that it wasn’t murder–I don’t see much implication that anyone was murdered on purpose. All that kind of reminds me of the central conflict in my favourite Ursula K LeGuin novel, of which I will spoiler tag so that if you don’t know what I’m talking about you don’t get that book spoilered: The Word for World is Forest. Anyway, go and read all of her science fiction novels immediately so you know what I’m talking about.
What, if anything, does this story tell us about humanity?
That we’d be in a way better place if the realization of climate change resulted in brief social unrest and then seemingly universal acceptance, and then collaboration to preserve human culture as well as search for potential solutions.
What do you make of the Reversalists?
I feel bad for the robot guys because their universe (which I am interpreting as constructed but never mind that) has a problem that doesn’t seem to have known practical solutions (unlike us, who have a problem that is complex but which we literally have so many practical solutions we aren’t pursuing).
They seem to view their problem like they’re tasked with reversing entropy, and partly they’re not wrong. We could literally reverse the entropy on our problem by, like, planting enough trees and blowing up oil and gas executives and shit, stuff that’s been here for hundreds of millions of years, and we KNOW how amazing trees are.
How would you describe the narrator’s perspective at the end of this story?
It’s bleak, but I won’t lie, it tugged at my heartstrings quite a lot. Syrupy, but let me tell you, I’ve got one hell of a sweet tooth.
I hope that they were wrong, and this was a historical passage unearthed in-universe. I also like thinking about this in the frame of them examining their world and universe through a comparatively incomplete scientific understanding of the world.
Favorite or most hated qualities or passages?
IDK again I got one hell of a sweet tooth if others here thought it was flowery or overly sentimental. Just thinkin’ about the robot buddies meetin’ at the lung refill station for a chat…