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Partial List of the Saved

by Rudi Dornemann

This is actually a story by Ken Brady. We're having some technical problems with the site that are keeping Ken from posting under his own name, but with any luck, everything will be sorted out over the weekend.

Standing on the foredeck of the Titanic the first thing we notice is how real the wind feels. We walk unnoticed all the way up to the bow railing and spread our arms as if to fly like that meat actor back in the flat days. The days when it only took a few hundred million dollars and a contrived love story to suspend disbelief.

We have greater requirements. When the only reality we have is a construct, we come to rely on the details. Down to the prim, the pixel, the ray. And here, on the deck of one of the most famous disasters in human history, we will make our stand, take our chances, be saved or fade into obscurity, forever lost.

We have been in the Purgatory Hub for six days now, and our cluster will lose its public funding tomorrow. None of us had enough money in life to buy our way into everlasting life, so here we are, in a final act of desperation.

We know the great ship will strike an iceberg tonight, and we must find new bodies to inhabit before that occurs. We must do or die, as the expression goes. If we don't face death in a body of historical significance, we will simply be deleted. We will not join the other uploads in the Perpetual Cluster, not become part of the global mind, not become part of human history. It will be like each of our two hundred lives never existed.

Choosing another life is difficult. None of us knew in which historical event we would find ourselves, but some of us recall bits of useful data, factoids from history class or pop culture. We are on the upper decks for practical reasons; in first class, we have a better than sixty percent chance to live forever.

We move through the cabins and lounges, each of us choosing a body. We temporarily assume their names and identities, their lives and last hours. Women and children first. The unfortunate among us are left with men. We choose the richest-looking men.

If we are lucky and our assumed names match those on the front page of The New York Times, April 16, 1912, if we are indeed on the partial list of the saved, we will earn a place in history. We will be survivors.

The alternative is not really an alternative at all, but the dark depths of the ocean and the cold embrace of eternity.

History is our only route to the future.


That's a powerful situation. The whole question of uploading one's self has an important pragmatic problem that's skipped a lot in fiction: a computerized person would only ever be a replica, never an actual transfer. But I don't think this weighs down your story, because I think it's believable for people to want even a version of themselves to live on, and I liked to think of those versions as being the protagonists in the story here.

I admit to being a little confused about the details here (for instance, why a historical event would save a virtual person), and I'm curious about that idea, but it didn't prevent me from feeling a lot of sympathy and dread.

And on top of writing a powerful story in under 400 words, you've pulled it off in first person plural. Nice work!

Posted by: Luc Reid | January 23, 2009 11:40 PM

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