Vice did a terrific review of Twelve Tomorrows MIT TechReview’s science fiction issue edited by Bruce Sterling. It’s got stories by William Gibson, Warren Ellis, Pat Cadigan, Cory Doctorow and me!
“Every year, the MIT Technology Review publishes Twelve Tomorrows, a special issue of the magazine devoted to science fiction. For those of us who pay attention to such things, Twelve Tomorrows is like the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue: beyond being a treat to look forward to, it seems to justify, in one symbolic swoop, precisely what all the other issues are for.
Here’s what Vice’s Motherboard had to say about my story, “Slipping” about a girl from Gugulethu competing in an extreme games where anything goes:
“Lauren Beukes imagines an off-grid Olympics for bioengineered athletes, meat machines cinched together with Velcroskin, racing each other beneath the hot Karachi sky. These are design fictions as rich, as thoughtful, as singularly Nasdaq-affecting as anything we might see in the pages of the MIT Technology Review in fifteen years. Sooner, if these guys have their way.”
Here’s a snip from the story:
“‘You all right, kitten?’ Tomislav comes over to take Pearl by the shoulders, give them a little rub. ‘You feeling good?’
‘Fine.’ More than fine, with the crowds’ voices a low vibration through the concrete and the starting line tugging at her insides, just through that door, across the quad, down the ramp. She has seen people climbing up onto the roofs around the track with picnic blankets.
‘That’s my girl.’ He snatches the programme out of her hands. ‘Why are you even looking at this? You know every move these girls have.’
He means Siska Rachman. That’s all anyone wants to talk about. Pearl is sick of it, all the interviews for channels she’s never heard of. No-one told her how much of this would be talking about racing.
‘Ready when you are,’ Dr Arturo says into her head, through the audio implant in her cochlear. Back online as if he’s never been gone, checking the diagnostics. ‘Watch your adrenaline, Pearl. You need to be calm for the install.’ He used to narrate the chemical processes, the shifting balances of hormones, the nano enhancing oxygen uptake, the shift of robotic joints, the dopamine blast, but it felt too much like being in school; words being crammed into her head and all worthless anyway. You don’t have to name something to understand it. She knows how it feels when she hits her stride and the world opens up beneath her feet.
‘He’s ready,’ she repeats to Tomislav.
‘All right, let’s get this show pumping.’
Pearl obediently hitches up her vest with the Russian energy drink logo – one of Tomislav’s sponsors, although that’s only spare change. She has met the men who have paid for her to be here, in the glass house on the hill, wearing gaudy golf shirts and shoes and shiny watches. She never saw the men swing a club and she doesn’t know their names, but they all wanted to shake her hand and take a photograph with her.
She feels along the rigid seam that runs in a J-hook down the side of her stomach, parallel with her hysterectomy scar, and tears open the velcroskin.
‘Let me,’ Tomislav says, kneeling between her legs. She holds her flesh open while he reaches one hand up inside her abdomen. It doesn’t hurt, not anymore. The velcro releases a local anaesthetic when it opens, but she can feel an uncomfortable tugging inside, like cramps.
Tomislav twists off the valves on either side and gently unplugs her stomach and eases it out of her. He sets it in a sterile biobox and connects it to a blood flow. By the time he turns back, she is already spooling up the accordion twist of artificial intestine, like a party magician pulling ribbons from his palm. It smells of the lab-mod bacteria and the faintest whiff of faeces. She hands it to Tomislav and he wrinkles his nose.
‘Just goes to show,’ he says, folding up the slosh of crinkled plastic tubing and packing it away. ‘You can take the meat out of the human, but they’re still full of shit!’
Pearl smiles dutifully, even though he has been making the same joke for the last three weeks – ever since they installed the new system.
‘Nearly there,’ he holds up the hotbed factory and she nods and looks away because it makes her queasy to watch. It’s a sleek bioplug, slim as a communion wafer and packed with goodness, Dr Arturo says, like fortified breakfast cereals…’
“Inspired by the real-life breakthroughs covered in the pages of MIT Technology Review, renowned writers Pat Cadigan, Cory Doctorow, and Christopher Brown join the hottest emerging authors from around the world to envision the future of the Internet, biotechnology, computing, and more.”