Tag Archives: science fiction

Short Story: Clever Girl by Craig Anderson

CLEVER GIRL

by Craig Anderson

Welcome to Mind Chip madam, how may I assist you today?

Sarah glanced around nervously, Is this the place where you sell the brain chips?

The salesman nodded enthusiastically, If you mean the IQ boosting, wireless cognitive enhancement devices then yes, youve come to the right place. Are you looking for something in particular?

A small girl peeked out from behind Sarahs legs, her yellow pigtails tied off with bright pink bows. Sarah gestured to her, “Im looking for something for my daughter. I want to give her the best start in life.

The salesman bent down and held out his hand, Nice to meet you young lady, Im Ben. Whats your name?

When she didnt answer the salesman tried again, Ravi de vous rencontrer jeune femme, je suis Ben.

The young girl stared at him dumbfounded. Sarah leaned over her daughter, “Its ok sweetie, you can say hello.

The little girl clung tightly to her mothers leg as she whispered, “Im Charlotte.”

And how old are you Charlotte?

After a moment to calculate Charlotte proudly announced Five and three quarters.

Ben stood back up, Well its nice to meet you Charlotte. So you want to be smart huh? You could do it the old fashioned way, work hard at school, read lots of books, spend your evenings learning new things. That doesnt sound much fun does it?

Charlotte shook her head, making her pigtails swish around. Ben made a raspberry sound, Thats what I think about that. How about instead of all that, you have one quick, painless operation and youll have access to everything you could ever possibly need to know in the blink of an eye? How does that sound?

Charlotte looked up at Sarah, confusion all over her face. Sarah said, That sounds wonderful. Can you tell me a little more about my options?

Ben placed his hand on Sarahs shoulder, Why yes of course I can, come right this way.He whisked them into the corner of the showroom that was glass and chrome. In a case were tiny black chips slightly larger than a grain of rice. Charlotte immediately rubbed her hands all over the case, leaving smudges everywhere. Sarah did her best to wipe them off but Ben laughed, “Dont worry about that. I see your daughter has excellent taste. Thats the 2025 model, fresh off the production line. State of the art design, 40% smaller which means it only needs a simple injection rather than a more invasive surgery. It has a 30% faster wireless connection which means the requested information is downloaded as fast as you can think it, and this model has real time language conversion into over 200 hundred languages. Låter det inte som en praktisk funktion?

Charlotte drooled. She said, Can I hold it?

Ben glanced at the security guard standing discretely in the corner and nodded. The guard produced a key and opened the case. Ben plucked out a chip. He placed it carefully in Charlottes hand, “Youre holding your future in the palm of your hand. With this chip you can be anything you want to be. The possibilities are endless.

Charlotte wiped her nose with the back of her other hand and promptly dropped the chip on the ground. Bens eyes grew wide and he quickly scooped it off the floor saying, Be careful, thats worth lots of money! Perhaps I will pop it back in the case where its safe, what do you think?

Charlotte shrugged.

Sarah leaned in closer to Ben, Exactly how much is one of these to buy?

This model is a bargain at only $250k madam.

She audibly gasped. It took her a moment to regain her composure, Is there a payment plan?

Bens smile softened at the corners, “Im afraid demand for the newest model is always so high that we dont offer any kind of plan, it is full payment upfront. We do haveother options available. Would you like to see some of our discounted models?

Sarah nodded and Ben ushered them across to the opposite corner of the showroom. The lighting wasnt as bright over here and the display case was scratched and scuffed. He reached in and pulled out a chip the size of a beer mat, This is our 2021 model. Its a little larger, so shed lose more of her organic brain, but we can typically save most of the memories. This model doesnt have the wireless, so you only get whats on the chip. Thats an awful lot of data, but she wouldnt gain access to the latest breakthroughs or world events. Obviously that becomes more of an issue over time. The chip itself is also slower, which causes a slight access delay, but its nothing her pretty little smile couldnt cover up.He reached down to pinch her cheek, but Charlotte scampered back behind her Mothers legs. Sarah said, How much is this one?

Its only $80k and we do offer a payment plan if your credit is approved with a very generous 11.9% interest rate.

Sarahs smile collapsed, I didnt realize these were so expensive. Is there anything else?

Ben reached behind the counter. He retrieved a chip the size of a large coin and said, This is our sponsorship edition 2023 model. This ones refurbished. I can let you have it for the bargain price of $10k.

What do you mean refurbished? Someone else used it?

Ben looked everywhere except at Sarah, Yes, but only briefly. The little boy only used it for a week or so before his parents brought it back. Its been thoroughly sanitized.

Why did they return it?

There was a lengthy pause before Ben said, The sponsorship edition comes with some additional stipulations…”

Such as?

Well, these models are cheaper because companies sponsor them.

Sarah nodded, That doesnt sound so bad.

Right! It just means that the communication is two way.

Two way?

Yeah, so little Charlotte would still get access to the data that she needs, but the companies can see what data shes asking for, what soda shes drinking, her favourite toys, simple things like that. Its all completely anonymous.

Sarah took a step backwards, nudging Charlotte along behind her, “Youre telling me they could read her mind?

Dont think of it as her mind, to them its just an anonymous user. Of course there are also the occasional adverts…”

Adverts!”

Yes, its harmless really, for example if you asked Charlotte where she might like to go for lunch, she may receive some suggested locations from our sponsors. Shes still free to make her own choice, this isnt brain control.

Sarahs voice became considerably louder, Free to make her own choice? Shes five! Youre telling me you want me to put a chip in my daughters head thats been in another childs brain, transmits her thoughts to shady corporations and can suggest to her where to eat and what to buy? Do you think Im some kind of monster!

Ben held up his hands, “Id argue the benefits outweigh the down side. Shell still be miles ahead of where she would be with no chip. If you cant afford a newer model this is your best option.

Sarah huffed, No thank you, well just wait a couple of years for the price to come down.

Ben sucked air in through his teeth, Yeah, about that, youre pretty much at the upper limit of when these chips will take. Were not allowed to install in any kid over six, there have been complications when trying to install the chips in older kids.

Complications? Like what.

Brain death. If I was you Id go with whatever you can afford right now, while you still have a choice. Pretty soon every kid is going to have one of these. What kind of life is that going to be for your daughter? She will be a second class citizen, totally unemployable in all but the most menial jobs.

Sarah stared at the big blue eyes of her gorgeous daughter and said, “Ill need to talk it through with my husband. Maybe we can sell the car.

Thats a very noble sacrifice for you daughters future. Ill be here when youre ready to make a decision. Heres my card if you have any questions.

Well thank you for your time, youve been very helpful.Sarah ushered her daughter out the door.

After a few moments Bens manager walked over, Potential sale?

He shook his head, No, they were time wasters. One day shes going to look back on today and realize it was the moment she should have done whatever it took for her daughter. Its a shame really.

Sarah and Charlotte left the mall and got into the car. The moment the door shut Charlotte jumped around excitedly, I did it Mommy, just like you taught me. Look!She brandished the small black chip that she had so meticulously palmed.

Sarah smiled, “Clever girl!”

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Interview with Alasdair Shaw

What genre are your books?
The overall genre is science fiction.

OK. What about sub-genre?
Now that’s a bit harder. Choosing a sub-genre is very subjective. Most books will have things which identify with several different categories. Sometimes I wish I could do a word cloud or heat bar for how much a book fits each sub-genre.

Sometimes I call my work military scifi, other times I call it space opera because there are elements that aren’t battles and strategy. Amazon puts my books in space marine, space fleet, and galactic empire. I guess they also fit some of the criteria of post-apocalyptic as there has been a planet-wide nuclear strike, but I really don’t think that is the right category given what most readers understand by it.

What draws you to this genre?
I have enjoyed reading SF for a long time. Iain M Banks’ Excession converted me to a fan and inspired much of the world I have created.

What is the easiest thing about writing?
The easiest thing for me is the world-building. I’ve had the background, technology, etc. in my head for years. I work out the history, rank structures, politics, and so on whenever I’m at a loose end. When I started writing the stories it just flowed.

One problem is trying to strike the right balance between info-dump and vacuum. Of course, different readers have different preferences, but I know that my love of long lectures on historical details is not shared by many.

One day, I might even write a ‘history’ of the Two Democracies universe.

What was your hardest scene to write?
There’s a scene where one of my main characters realises she is being sexually discriminated against. I haven’t written it yet as it will take place in a prequel series to the one I’m writing now, but having her remember it in a scene in my latest story was bad enough. Not only is putting myself in her place harrowing, more so than any of the combat or other horrific scenes I’ve written for her, but it is also very difficult to pitch correctly. She is the victim, but not a victim.

How would you react if a film were made of one of your books?
I’d be stunned. It would be really cool. To see “Liberty, the new movie by Stephen Spielberg” or something like that would be a mark that I had made it as a writer. I’d certainly go to see it.

One worry would be that it wouldn’t match what was in my head. Many of the scenes have detailed descriptions of actions, but a lot of what happens is going on in the characters’ heads and that is hard to do in a film.

If you could spend time with a character from your books, which would it be?
Now that’s not fair. I don’t think I could single one out without upsetting the others.

I’m going to have to insist on an answer.
Hmm. It’ll have to be a group outing: Prefect Olivia Johnson, Pilot Legionary Anastasia Seivers, and The Indescribable Joy of Destruction (well, its primary personality at least).

And what would you do on that outing?
Go for a walk in the mountains. Discuss things. Set the world to rights. Oh, and gang up on Johnson to try to get her to try reading more fiction.

What’s your favourite under-appreciated novel?
The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde. It is incredibly witty and clever, as well as being a great story. I also love the power he gives to books in it. The lead character is a Spec Ops 27 agent, responsible for policing crimes involving literary works (other than Shakespeare, of course, which is covered by Spec Ops 29).

Which famous person, living or dead would you like to meet and why?
Aristotle. I’d like to see if I could convince him of the Galilean/Newtonian understanding of the laws of motion.


Alasdair Shaw grew up in Lancashire, within easy reach of the Yorkshire Dales, Pennines, Lake District and Snowdonia. After stints living in Cambridge, North Wales, and the Cotswolds, he has lived in Somerset since 2002.

He has been rock climbing, mountaineering, caving, kayaking and skiing as long as he can remember. Growing up he spent most of his spare time in the hills. Recently he has been doing more sea kayaking, running and swimming.

Alasdair studied at the University of Cambridge, leaving in 2000 with an MA in Natural Sciences and an MSci in Experimental and Theoretical Physics. He went on to earn a PGCE, specialising in Science and Physics, from the University of Bangor. A secondary teacher for over fifteen years, he has plenty of experience communicating scientific ideas.

The Two Democracies: Revolution science fiction series starts with Independence, and continues with Liberty. The third story, The Perception of Prejudice, is released this month. Equality will hopefully be released in summer 2017, followed by Fraternity the year after.

You can see what else he gets up to on his website at http://www.alasdairshaw.co.uk.

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