149

She pulled on the haptic gloves, and her fingertip grip on reality slipped.

Scientists have developed an ultra-light glove that enables users to feel and manipulate virtual objects. Weighing less than 8 grams per finger, this glove could be powered by a small battery, giving users unparalleled freedom of movement. Reading of these ultra-light virtual reality (VR) gloves, Katherine Quevedo was reminded of her first experience in VR, playing a game against three strangers in San Francisco’s Pier 39 and was blown away—figuratively and virtually. Inspired, she combined this tech with the concept of super hero/villain origin myths, and this story seed was born.

//Katherine Quevedo lives just outside Portland, OR, with her husband and two sons. Find her at www.katherinequevedo.com.//

148

My sails are strong, and my hands are raw. A dozen boats float close enough to pay witness to my coming of age sailing through the white forest.

Recent research by Carnegie’s Anna Possner and Ken Caldeira suggests aquatic wind farms might be a viable source of clean energy, especially during the winter months on the Atlantic. Carlin Ring was inspired by a projection forward into a time when these wind farms are an established part of a post-climate change landscape, and what cultural significance they might take on.

//Carlin Ring is a mail clerk this month, but will be something else later. She tweets @threesnakeleave.//

147

Have you ever had to convince someone you’re human?
I recorded my voice for an open source AI.
Now the robots look human, and they all sound like me.

Mark Johnson’s friend Alan is the voice of of an AI assistant called Mycroft. He recorded samples of his voice and released them under an open license so they could be used to create an artificial voice. In the 21st century, this is still a novelty, but imagine this in an Asimov-style future. Suddenly, robots are ubiquitous, and humanity assumes that a person-shaped thing talking with this voice is a robot. How would they react if they saw it break the laws of robotics?

//Mark Johnson is a web developer, podcaster, science and sci-fi enthusiast.  You can hear
him (and Alan) speaking every week on the Ubuntu Podcast at http://ubuntupodcast.org//

146

Is it love if I want to be you,
want to inhale DNA rings when we kiss,
when we conjugate?
Am I obsessed if I want you to express yourself
in me?

After studying bio-engineering at an undergraduate level, Sharang Biswas became fascinated by how bacteria reproduce and exchange genetic material. This story is a poetical take on bacterial conjugation, a concise explanation of which is found here. Bacteria are capable of rapid growth, but only when the conditions are right. Recently, researchers have found an increase of a protein called FtsZ is the trigger for growth in E. Coli. Several labs are investigating substances that accelerate the breakdown of FtsZ. Hopefully, some of these will be promising candidates for new antibiotics.

//Sharang Biswas’ (@sharangbiswas) two engineering degrees propelled him to attend art school. He is now a game designer, writer and artist based in New York. See his portfolio here. //

145

Flowers blossomed through what remained of my eye sockets, green-brown skin peeling off like dead leaves. Never jailbreak your chlorophyll implants.

William Shaw wrote this story inspired by the biohacking movement. While the potential benefits of augmenting the human body are potentially immense, he worries about how such technology would interact with a tech world increasingly dominated by proprietary software. Intriguingly, chlorophyll is already a substance of interest to those in the bodymod community. In 2015, grinders tested chlorophyll’s ability to augment night vision. In 2016, the Quimera Rosa collective presented a project called “Transplant“, where chlorophyll was injected in an attempt to create photosynthesising tattoos. Whatever the results, the proprietary dilemmas of body modification are something we should definitely consider. 

//William Shaw (@Will_S_7) is a tech writer by day, blogger by night. Find him online at williamshawwriter.wordpress.com//

144

We found the secrets to unravelling the universe, and bound them in poison-laden books. Those who hungered for such power unravelled themselves, their dying minds an inaccessible, sparking archive.

Shadows from the Walls of Death (1874) contains close to a hundred wall paper samples. Be careful when opening – if you touch it with bare skin, the book might just kill you. This book is not some cursed artefact – it is the work of Dr. Robert M. Kedzie, a Union surgeon during the American Civil War and later professor of chemistry at Michigan State Agricultural college (now MSU). Dr. Kedzie was intending to raise awareness about the dangers of arsenic in paper. Inspired by this marvel of chemistry, D. C. wondered whether there would ever be a reason for a scientist to poison a book on purpose… maybe to protect the secrets of the universe?

//D.C. (@sixfeetzen) is a queer/NB writer who works on LGBTQ games. They were a mortician once, and prone to writing about death.//