Homo sapiens sapiens

Nothing to do with corn.

“Ladies, Lords.

Today, with the advent of cheaply available nanomutagens, we are seeing an explosion in human genetic alteration ranging from pre-natal to geriatric—and from targeted risk factor reduction to wholesale alteration of secondary sexual characteristics. The government does not possess any agency for regulating such operations, and the recent passage of court bill 2301AP-8903 legally binds it to inaction. I believe this is a failure on the part of this committee, inasmuch as we are obligated to also advise policy.

The problem is that legalization of all such genetic engineering doesn’t merely pass the burden of inevitable failures onto the expectant parents or individual requesting the treatment (as the legislature appears to have concluded); it also creates a sociogenetic debt.

True, we have overseen the almost complete eradication of the more common genetically linked susceptibilities—as well as single-gene genetic disorders proper, such as CF and TS in the last decade alone. In the case of the former, we can all agree that eliminating the most common ΔF508 mutation was a triumph of science and humanity.

But what about myopia? If present trends continue, genes for imperfect eyesight will be ruthlessly bred out until no human wears eyeglasses. Gone will be the bespectacled academic, the horn-rimmed librarian, the bookish teen. This correction of a genetic fault will thereby alter our culture.

People have preferences for hair, eye color, and so on. So far, diversity has been preserved only by the presence of differing racial and societal expectations of attractiveness. But already we see evidence of women crippled by their parents’ absurdly idealized notions of beauty, especially body weight, and men too Hellenistically sculpted to fit into standard space suits. We’re at an inflection point where an entire generation could be born blond if some hypothetical singer with sandy hair became sufficiently popular.”

TS [2301-05-22 13:28, 2301-05-22 13:33]


Who would you like to be?®

“Welcome back!”

“The hell?”

“Tsk. Language, Mr. Carter. I presume you can show yourself out. Have a safe trip.”

“Where the hell am I?”

“Oh my. One moment, please.” [pause] “50 simyears??? By the stars, you must be wealthy!”

“What’s going on?”

[sighs] “. . . you’d better come with me, Mr. Carter.”


“Your real name is Doug Carter. Your last (perceived) 50 years have been wholly simulated by our software, interacting with other customers as compatibility allows. It is unusual for customers to request more than a simulated week or so, but it seems you bought a whole lifetime.”

[shows signed contract with company logo]

“You’re about 24 real years older, because we use a 2:1 time scale with some scheduled maintenance. But for long-term clients, we use longevity boosters, so you’re only about 6 years older biologically. We block prior memories so that your simulated experience feels real (and for the safety of other participants), but customers usually regain their prior memories shortly after return.”

“Jeanette . . .”

“Hmm? Oh, that’s a name. Unusual. Oh, hmm, I see. It appears you had a child in simspace. That feature’s technically still in beta. How was the conception? Any tips for our dev team?”

“My daughter!”

“Oh, ah. Mr. Carter, so, your daughter doesn’t exist in reality. If you like, I can copy all her logs for you. You own all her IP. Her mother is sim too, so the same there.”

“But . . . !!!”

“Mr. Carter . . .”

“. . . how much for another fifty years?”

[representative smiles]

In Case of EMP . . .

Nostalgia costs mass.


Johnson broke the glass.

“The hell is this?”

“It’s a slide rule. And it’s going to save our asses.”

“Lotta fancy numbers. What’s it do?”

“It multiplies, divides, square roots, all the usual things ‘cept addition. This one does trig and exponents too. It’s more precise than your brain, but less so than a computer. That EMP means we don’t have a computer, though. Both backups are dead too.”

“Well, we had no way of knowing that that particular CME would hit us way out here at Jupiter. The chances of that must be pretty absurd.”

“Not really. Happens all the time. But our electrical shielding clearly wasn’t up to par, and this was a particularly big one. Right now, we’re dead fish in a very big sea. See if the emergency sparkgap is working. Tell Ganymede we’re scrubbing the mission—and we’ll use this thing to figure out how to burn for home.”

Ed. note: Idea from Atomic Rockets. I myself restored a K&E for work, and have another at home. They’re useful for one-off calculations that would be too slow to do in my head and too unimportant to boot a shell.

Physical Exam

Your A+ is an F-

“Did I pass, doc?”

“You’ll be pleased to know, you’re in perfect health.”

“Sweet! I’ma be an astronaut!”

“Well . . . no.”

“!!! . . . Why not? You said I’m in perfect health!”

“You have type A-positive blood. Astronauts are required to have type O-positive.”

“That seems arbitrary.”

“No; it’s necessary. If someone got hurt, you couldn’t be a blood donor. The body of any O-type person would reject it. O-positive is the largest blood group type, so we picked that. Sorry.”

In Port

That’s a stiff one.

“Buy you a drink?”


“Ma’am, I’m trying to be considerate. It’s about your ship.”

“The Willow? What?”

“Thought so. Eh bartender!—A double algae on the rocks for the lady here.”

“What are you doing?”

“I think something bad is going to happen to the Willow. Just some talk I heard around the docks. Something about a defective neutron moderator.”

“Are you threatening me?”

“No. I’m offering a deal. I know these guys. Hold some sway. Might be able to convince—”

[leaving] “Disgusting. Keep your drink.”

Ed. note: we last saw Beth here.

Material Science

A song, broken by tears.

“What is it, my dear? What’s wrong?”

“I . . . I broke it, mommy!”

“Well, what did you break?”

[looks up with sorrowful eyes]

“You don’t mean . . .”

“It was dirty! I tried to wash it and—”

“Show me!”

The violin lay on the bed in a crumpled, twisted heap. Traditional violin bonding is water-soluble, and modern strings put nearly 50 pounds of pressure . . .

“I’m sorry!”

[examining] “Ugh, and the wood is all warped too. You should have called me sooner!”

“I’m sorry!”

[sighs] “Well, there’s no way to fix this at all. The wood is cracked and the water warped it more. Even if it weren’t, there isn’t a luthier within half a light-hour.”

“. . .”

“It’s okay sweetie. You couldn’t have known. You’ve never seen wood before.”


Artwork by Dizzy Chen.

Phoebe Station

Tickets now available: 50 to 107 light-minutes.

[Heard on live evening newscast 2197-06-01 on Ceres]

“Twelve kiloseconds ago, Orbital Materials LLC announced their intention to establish an oxyhydrogen propellant depot on Phoebe, a retrograde satellite of Saturn, within the next decade. A spokesman from Orbital said Phoebe was purchased from a private collector. We have colonization analyst Helen Graves here with us on Ceres. Helen?”

“Right here, Mindy.”

“Helen, what are your thoughts on the Orbital Materials acquisition?”

“Well Mindy, as you know, I’ve studied interplanetary colonization for decades, and the Orbital acquisition seems hopelessly long-sighted. Phoebe orbits Saturn, and there are no present plans for colonization that far out. The closest well-frequented base would be Pasiphae Station, in the Jovian system. Frankly, Mindy, they just won’t have any customers.”

“What do you think is their aim in acquiring such a risky investment, then?”

“I’m guessing they intend to bootstrap colonization efforts themselves. Phoebe is undeniably well-suited for it. The moon orbits retrograde, which makes it easier to rendezvous with from certain Hohmanns, especially with slingshot capture tethers. It also has the vast wealth in water to make the fuel itself.”

“Thanks, Helen. Again, if you’re just joining us, Orbital Materials has acquired the moon Phoebe for speculative use as a propellant depot. Construction will start after the first crews arrive; I’m told Orbital will use higher-energy transfers to cut down on the six-year Hohmann from Earth. I’m Mindy Graham, and this is Ceres Evening News.”

Space Bums

Immigration should do something.

“Spare change, brother?”

“Get a job!”

“That’s quite impossible.”


“Impossible: adj.: not possible; unable to be, exist, happen, etc.”

“A wise guy, eh?”

“Yeah. Everybody out here has an IQ over 110. ‘Cept you, ‘parently.”

“Why, I never!”

[sighs] “We’re all descended from Earth, one way or another, but the smartest all moved out to space. So us second- and third-gen folks are all the sons and daughters of the upper-bracket erudite—including a fair measure of genius. The funny thing about IQ is that 100 is always average, so the average Earther is 80-something and the average Belter is 120.”

“I take grave exception to—”

“Oh can it already. Where are you going anyway?”

[testily] “. . . Bureau of Careers. Just shipped in with my last dime.”

[sarcastically] “And may lady fortune herself light your path to employment.”

“I will too!”

“Nope. Yer too dumb. If I can’t get a job, then you sure as hell can’t get a job. And you’re in the same boat as I—without any cash, you can’t buy your way off this rock. Might as well take a seat next to me. Yer gettin’ no job, brother.”

Indian Food

Grousers will be spaced.

“So I hear you like curries.”

“That’s not funny. You know I hate how space erodes your sensitivity to taste.”

“Fair enough. The rations, which are, by the way, spicy precisely to counter that effect, hit the spot for me, at least. It’s too bad there isn’t more to go around.”

“It’s a long flight and every gram counts. Cut it with water.”

“Ugh. I hate drinking our own rad shielding.”

“The rubbery taste is a bit off-putting, I’ll grant. But the ammonic tang of lightly reprocessed piss isn’t any better.”

“True enough. Pass the water. And also the aloo matar.”

Ed note: c.f. spacecoach concept IRL.