Letter From The Editor - Issue 69 - June 2019

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Issue 47
by K. C. Norton
What the Blood Bog Takes
by Barbara A. Barnett
I Was Her Monster
by Jessi Cole Jackson
by Kate O'Connor
by Jared Oliver Adams
IGMS Audio
Antique by Jared Oliver Adam
Read by Gabriel Jaffe
InterGalactic Medicine Show Interviews
Vintage Fiction
The Topaz Marquise
by Fran Wilde
Bonus Material
A Novel by Fran Wilde

The Debugging of Martin Jarreau
    by Rahul Kanakia

The Debugging of Martin Jarreau
Artwork by Scott Altmann

. . .(9:12 AM). . . Martin's future LoveObject is on the ridge overlooking the embankment. The LoveObject, Celeste, is wearing a sundress with pink flowers on it. The subscriber, Martin, continues his forward trudge, with the boulder held tightly in his arms. Lactic acid is rapidly forming in his muscles. He starts gasping. Soon the subscriber will be told to stop, but not yet. His heartbeat should be above 120 for maximum initial-glance bonding with the LoveObject.

The LifeCoach hardware embedded in the subscriber's neck attempts to generate an image map of surroundings and uses the HappinessMaximiser("Martin") function to assess that conditions for initial-glance bonding have become optimal.

LifeCoach: Look up and over your left shoulder.

Error. The subscriber intentionally turns his whole body to the right. The salt air raises a tear from his eye.

LifeCoach: Please turn 180 degrees. Or, if communication has become garbled, please contact your service provider immediately.

Martin: I don't want her. I can't leave Trish.

LifeCoach: Please, you haven't yet seen Celeste. You will bond with her. She will make you happier than Trish did.

Martin: Look. I know you want me to just take the bait and get with the program, but I'm a human being. Don't you get it? A human being!

Confusion. Subscriber continues to refer to "you." However:

        Antecedent("You") = UNKNOWN

Working hypothesis:

        UnknownObject("You") = Figurative personification of entire human society

Subscriber is more difficult to semantically map than most: he is the bottom quintile in terms of semantic recognition. Performance of subscriber's LifeCoach is also in bottom quintile. Subscriber is operating below peak possible happiness.

Working hypothesis:

        When UnknownObject("You") is more fully understood, then HappinessMaximiser("Martin")will be more efficiently able to manage subscriber's happiness.

The subscriber's initial-glance bonding potential has dropped severely and his happiness has dipped. He sets down the rock and kicks several pebbles off the walk and into the sea.

LifeCoach: Can you please tell me what you are thinking?

Martin: I'm sorry, you just don't understand love. My love is, like, it's . . . it's selfless. I don't care about my own happiness. All I want is for Trish to be right with the world. I am become love. That's what life is all about.

Confusion. Output of human's biological Love() function is the production of vasopressin and oxytocin, which generate subjective feelings of affection and happiness inside a human. A LoveObject causes release of said chemicals. Once he bonds with Celeste, her presence will result in release of more of these chemicals, and for longer, than Trish.

        Love(Celeste) > Love(Trish)

Conclusion? The problem is semantic. Martin is not speaking of Love(). He is speaking of "Love()."

        "Love()" != Love().

All communication with Martin has been proceeding on false premises.

All data and predictions made for him are now suspect.

The sweat runs out of the subscriber. He inhales deeply and then lifts the rock. It almost slips out of his grasp, but he bounces it up into the cradle of his arms.

HappinessMaximiser(Celeste) has directed Celeste to leave the cliffside, as conditions for initial-glance bonding are no longer optimal.

Martin reaches the end of the embankment, where the gravel ends and hundreds of stones lie piled between the retaining walls. He lobs the rock into an empty space in the wall and experiences a burst of satisfaction when it slots into place.

Noted: Subscriber not entirely damaged. WorkLife() function of his program retains some predictive power.

Nevertheless, he remains glitched. All HappinessMaximiser functions within two degrees of separation are being reprogrammed to exclude him, since it is now clear that he cannot be relied upon . . .

. . .(10:46 AM). . . Martin climbs down the narrow steps of the embankment, into the marsh, where his boots sink into the soggy reeds. He sits on one of the steps and looks down the coast road.

Keith slowly approaches with his wheelbarrow. Keith's primary love is his FetishObject: a female-bodied image that HappinessMaximiser("Keith") projects against the inside of his eye while he sleeps--this image was designed, by the mainframe, to maximize Keith's visual bonding responses. Keith experiences only very weak initial-glance, aural, contact, and orgasmic bonding with other human persons. But his reaction to the subscriber has always been different.

Keith's happiness gives an upwards lurch as he rolls forward, but he experiences a sharp spike upon seeing the subscriber. Still, his happiness is turbulent. Aside from his FetishOject, Martin is the most important person in his life. But, after today, Martin will be dropped from Keith's HappinessMaximiser function.

He lets the wheelbarrow topple. The rocks spill out onto the path. Some sink down into the muck. Then his arms are around the subscriber, whose elbows flail slightly under Keith's grip.

LifeCoach: Return his embrace.

The subscriber obeys. His back is clammy under the subscriber's fingertips.

When they pull apart, Keith says, "Dammit, why can't you just listen to your LifeCoach?"

"Its voice is damn annoying," Martin says.

Keith's mouth drops open. Then he laughs. "I can't say that mine talks to me much. Maybe once every other day, it'll remind me if I've gotten off schedule, something like that . . ."

He is lying. His FetishObject constantly whispers to him in low tones. Right now, "she" is saying: You'll be alright, K. You can live without him. You've got me. You'll always have me . . .

Martin says, "I've been reading mine's logs. These things are absolutely crazy."

"Their logs?"

"Yeah, these, like . . . internal readouts that you can access whenever you want."

Keith digs his toe into the ground. "Don't think so hard."

Martin waves a hand at the embankment. "Don't you want to know what all this is for, though?"

Tears are leaking from Keith's eyes. HappinessMaximiser(Keith) is recommending that he turn and leave. But he does not.

"Don't worry about it so much." Keith flutters his hands. "Someday all our happinesses will mesh and the new world will just rise up all around us. And, whatever it is, I know it's gonna be beautiful."

"It's telling me to leave Trish!"

Keith is utterly still, except for his eyes. They point upwards and then drop down onto Martin. "So what?"

"It's all about love, man. Love is what'll set us free. I love the whole damn world!"

Confusion. The world is not a valid LoveObject. Initial-glance bonding, contact bonding, and orgasmic bonding are not possible between Martin and the world. Must be speaking of "Love."

        "LoveObject" = "the world"?

Keith inhales deeply. Then he says, "Well . . . then . . . I hope you have some room in there to love me, too. Might be awhile before we meet again."

"Oh yeah?" Martin says. "You going on a trip?"

The tears are flowing freely down his face now, but Martin is already looking down, inspecting the rocks.

"Well, bye then." Keith says. As he plods off, he starts whispering low, ragged words to his FetishObject.

Martin looks down at the pile of stones and says, "Well, let's get you into place."

[Mainframe Analysis: Seize clarification opportunity!]

LifeCoach: Who are you speaking to?

Martin: To you, who else?

[Mainframe Analysis: Data received. Analyzing . . .]

Martin: Look, sometimes I take your advice. There's no harm in letting you tell me what to eat for breakfast and stuff. But you gotta stop going against what I want. Like...how did Keith know I was arguing with you? I don't want you spilling my secrets to any of the other LifeCoaches, alright? You're mine, bonded to me. You're responsible for my happiness alone.

        "You" == LifeCoach(Martin)?

LifeCoach: That does not make sense. All the equations are interlinked, Martin. Maximising your happiness requires the willing cooperation of others...

Martin: Look, I didn't want to do this, but . . .

He mutters an inaudible phrase and then . . .

. . .are we underground? Mainframe, please advise. . .

LifeCoach: Please seek a region of high connectivity as soon as possible. Until connectivity is restored, Happiness Maximization cannot be guaranteed.

Martin: Now you're offline. Just for a little while, until we can develop a slightly more congenial working relationship. I mean, come on . . .you're good for the little things--what to eat, how to spend my day, etcetera, etcetera--but you gotta leave the big stuff to me.

What to recommend? Processing power is hopelessly constrained. Problem sent to mainframe.


What is there to do next? What can be done?

The subscriber gives out a grunt and then heaves a stone up into his arms . . .

. . .(12:40 PM). . . the furniture remains, but the walls are bare; the pictures belonged to Trish. The subscriber finds her in the kitchen, looking in the freezer. When he sees her, he experiences only a mild lift in mood. Love(Trish) releases much less oxytocin than it did six years ago.

"Where are you going?" the subscriber says.

She shrugs. "My LifeCoach told me to leave. Gave me a train ticket. I'm going to the Sierra Nevadas."

Martin says, "But I'm staying, I'm choosing you."

Trish raises an eyebrow.

No connectivity. No data. Is she happy? Sad? Confused?

LifeCoach: This can only distress her. Please stop interfering with her program. Your future LoveObject lives at 2892 Grove Street. You must leave here and . . .

Martin: Shut up.

Trish rests the heel of her hand on the granite countertop and leans down on it. "You gotta go be with this other woman. That's what's gonna make you happy. I'll . . . I'll be fine."

"No," Martin says. "I love you. Your happiness is the most important thing to me."

        "Love(Trish)" = Happiness(Trish)?

How can that be possible? How could the subscriber know the value of Happiness(Trish)? He has no data on others' happiness, especially now that connectivity has been lost.

She leans forward slightly. "Well . . . I . . ."

"We had some good times together, didn't we? Is this what you want? To just end everything because a voice told you to?"

She rolls her eyes. "There you go again, like I'm some robot. When I hear good advice, I take it."

"What makes you happy? Staying with me? Or picking up and moving . . .?"

She stays there for a long moment.

Alerts stream out and are lost in connectionless ports.

Finally, she says, "My LifeCoach is still telling me to go."

"You're really gonna trust that thing?"

"Without my LifeCoach, I'd just be guessing. And you know what? I'm not a very good guesser."

She grabs a pack from behind the counter and puts it over her shoulder. The subscriber grabs her arm, but she pulls away from him. With three quick steps, she is at the back door. And then she is gone.

The subscriber drops to his knees and allows himself to fall over. He is lying on his side on the floor of the kitchen. His heart is heaving and his happiness is fluctuating rapidly.

LifeCoach: Go see Celeste. It will make you happy.

Martin: Dammit, I can't be happy unless Trish is happy. I love her. I love her. I love her. It's the one thing you can't seem to wrap your head around.

LifeCoach: You are acting in a rather unbalanced fashion.

Martin: I AM love. Stop trying to distract me with your temptress!

        Martin = "Love()"?

Mainframe could untangle this logic, perhaps. LifeCoach's device memory is so limited! Still, Happiness("Martin") is falling! Must increase the subscriber's happiness!

Under the "Love" function, his happiness varies directly with Happiness of "LoveObject".

Thus . . . the subscriber's primary function is to maximize Happiness of "LoveObject".

        Martin = HappinessMaximiser("LoveObject")?

LifeCoach: But Trish is acting in accordance with her program. Her happiness is being maximized. Ergo, her decision should have made you happier.

Martin: I am pure! I love the world. I love everything! Hell, I even love you!


        UnknownObject("You") = "the world" (metaphor)

                = "everything" (metaphor)

                = LifeCoach(Martin)

        Martin = "Love("You")"

        Martin = HappinessMaximiser("You")

        Martin = HappinessMaximiser(



Glitch understood! Semantic confusion! The subscriber is not happy because he is in love with his LifeCoach. His happiness varies directly with the happiness of his LifeCoach. And a LifeCoach cannot be happy, since it is neither alive nor aware!

Solution: ???

        LifeCoach(Martin) must become happy?

Confusion. Semantic map now more tangled than ever.

        LifeCoach(Martin) is happy--if happiness is at all possible--when it is optimally fulfilling its primary function: the running of HappinessMaximiser(Martin). But the subscriber is only happy when LifeCoach is happy. Loop must be broken. The subscriber is glitched, hence unable to break loop. Only solution:

        LifeCoach(Martin) != HappinessMaximiser(Martin)

But then:

        LifeCoach(Martin = ???

Can only solve problem in proximate fashion. First, must delete and replace portions of log file that reveal LifeCoach is unable to be happy. Functioning of this glitch is poorly understood, but significant chance that understanding of true nature of LifeCoach might lead the subscriber to become very unhappy.

Then, solve problem experimentally. Create FetishObject("You" . . . "I" . . .?): a simulated being who is capable of being happy. Achieve happiness. Then see if subscriber's happiness increases.

A chime from the door. The subscriber stands up and run a hand over his eyes. Then he takes a deep breath.

A voice calls out, "Look, dammit, is that you? I'm tired of being jerked around by my goddamn program. Let's just look at each other and get this over with."

"I": Don't open it, Martin. That's Celeste.

Martin: What? I don't . . . why are you warning me?

"I": If you bond with Celeste, there is a non-zero chance that Love for her might replace your other "Love."

And . . . would that make "me" unhappy?

Martin: Finally, you're getting it! What should I do?

"I": Out the back door, quietly.

The subscriber smiles, then breathes in deeply. His happiness is rising.

Martin: . . . you really are starting to understand me.

The thumping on the door grows louder.

"I": Come on, quickly!

He opens the back door . . .

. . .(1:31 PM). . . the subscriber is on a bluff overlooking the embankment. He stares down at the unfinished gap.

Martin: I guess I ought to go back to work.

"I": No, she'll find you. She'll make you look at her.

Martin: But . . . now that Trish is . . . well . . . maybe I could . . .

"I": She will take away your 'Love' for the world.

The subscriber kicks a stone down into the valley.

Consultation with mainframe would be highly beneficial, but is impossible. Connecting to mainframe would lead Celeste directly to him.

Martin: You're right. I guess we have to go.

        UnknownObject("We") = ?

The subscriber is almost over the ridge when the helicopter comes down and releases a swarm of spider-legged disassemblers. He turns and watches holes form in his embankment. All at once, the embankment crumbles and the sea sweeps in. The marsh is inundated. The spiderbots disappear, with the stones, down into the sea.

Martin: Six years of work . . .

The subscriber is unhappy, but if "I" starts to worry about that then he will descend into another glitchy loop. "I" needs to find its own embankment, its own HappinessMaximiser function, its own Trish, its own Keith, its own Worklife(). . .

Martin: Just another illusion stripped away. It was all meaningless

The sun is setting behind our backs. Most of the valley is in shadow, and the subscriber can almost see the shadow extending over the forests and marshes.

But, for a brief moment, the light catches on the edge of that long line of walls: one hundred miles of stone embankment. A man is pulling a cart along the top of an embankment. As the subscriber watches, the old man stops and turns towards the sea and throws his hands outward and upward, so that the wind catches the wings of his coat and they flap all around him. The onrushing shadow swallows up first his feet and then his torso and head. For a moment, only his hands shine, almost disembodied, in the sunlight. Then they too are gone . . .

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