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  • Getting to Know You
  • Written by David Marusek
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  • Written by David Marusek
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Stories

Written by David MarusekAuthor Alerts:  Random House will alert you to new works by David Marusek

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List Price: $11.99

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On Sale: December 30, 2008
Pages: | ISBN: 978-0-345-51343-4
Published by : Del Rey Ballantine Group
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Synopsis|Excerpt

Synopsis

Not since William Gibson and Bruce Sterling galvanized science fiction in the 1980s has the emergence of a new writer been heralded with such acclaim as that attending David Marusek, whose brilliant first novel, Counting Heads, appeared to rave reviews in 2005. But Marusek did not come out of nowhere. Aficionados of the genre had already taken note of his groundbreaking short fiction: masterfully written, profoundly thought-out examinations of futures so real they seemed virtually inevitable.

Now, in this collection of ten short stories, Marusek’s fierce imagination and dazzling extrapolative gifts are on full display. Five of the stories, including the Sturgeon Award-winning “The Wedding Album,” a shattering look at the unintended human consequences of advanced technology, are set in the same future as Counting Heads. All ten showcase Marusek’s talent for literate, provocative science fiction of the very highest order.

Excerpt

THE WEDDING ALBUM

Anne and Benjamin stood stock-still, as instructed, close but not touching, while the simographer adjusted her apparatus, set its timer, and ducked out of the room. It would take only a moment, she said. They were to think only happy, happy thoughts.

For once in her life, Anne was unconditionally happy, and everything
around her made her happier: her gown, which had been her
grandmother’s; the wedding ring (how cold it had felt when Benjamin
first slipped it on her finger!); her clutch bouquet of forget-me-nots and
buttercups; Benjamin himself, close beside her in his charcoal gray tux
and pink carnation. He who so despised ritual but was a good sport.

His cheeks were pink, too, and his eyes sparkled with some wolfish
fantasy. “Come here,” he whispered. Anne shushed him; you weren’t
supposed to talk or touch during a casting; it could spoil the sims. “I
can’t wait,” he whispered, “this is taking too long.” And it did seem
longer than usual, but this was a professional simulacrum, not some
home-made snapshot.

They were posed at the street end of the living room, next to the
table piled with brightly wrapped gifts. This was Benjamin’s townhouse;
she had barely moved in. All her treasures were still in shipping
shells in the basement, except for the few pieces she’d managed to have
unpacked: the oak refectory table and chairs, the sixteenth-century
French armoire, the cherry wood chifforobe, the tea table with inlaid
top, the silvered mirror over the fire surround. Of course, her antiques
clashed with Benjamin’s contemporary—and rather common—decor,
but he had promised her the whole house to redo as she saw fit. A
whole house!

“How about a kiss?” whispered Benjamin.

Anne smiled but shook her head; there’d be plenty of time later for
that sort of thing.

Suddenly, a head wearing wraparound goggles poked through the
wall and quickly surveyed the room. “Hey, you,” it said to them.

“Is that our simographer?” Benjamin said.

The head spoke into a cheek mike, “This one’s the keeper,” and
withdrew as suddenly as it had appeared.

“Did the simographer just pop her head in through the wall?” said
Benjamin.

“I think so,” said Anne, though it made no sense.

“I’ll just see what’s up,” said Benjamin, breaking his pose. He went
to the door but could not grasp its handle.

Music began to play outside, and Anne went to the window. Her
view of the garden below was blocked by the blue-and-white-striped
canopy they had rented, but she could clearly hear the clink of flatware
on china, laughter, and the musicians playing a waltz. “They’re starting
without us,” she said, happily amazed.

“They’re just warming up,” said Benjamin.

“No, they’re not. That’s the first waltz. I picked it myself.”

“So let’s waltz,” Benjamin said and reached for her. But his arms
passed through her in a flash of pixelated noise. He frowned and examined
his hands.

Anne hardly noticed. Nothing could diminish her happiness. She
was drawn to the table of wedding gifts. Of all the gifts, there was only
one—a long flat box in flecked silver wrapping—that she was most
keen to open. It was from Great-Uncle Karl. When it came down to it,
Anne was both the easiest and the hardest person to shop for. While
everyone knew of her passion for antiques, few had the means or expertise
to buy one. She reached for Karl’s package, but her hand passed
right through it. This isn’t happening, she thought with gleeful horror.

That it was, in fact, happening was confirmed a moment later
when a dozen people—Great-Uncle Karl, Nancy, Aunt Jennifer, Traci,
Cathy and Tom, the bridesmaids and others, including Anne herself,
and Benjamin, still in their wedding clothes—all trooped through the
wall wearing wraparound goggles. “Nice job,” said Great-Uncle Karl,
inspecting the room, “first rate.”

“Ooooh,” said Aunt Jennifer, comparing the identical wedding
couples, identical but for the goggles. It made Anne uncomfortable that
the other Anne should be wearing goggles while she wasn’t. And the
other Benjamin acted a little drunk and wore a smudge of white frosting
on his lapel. We’ve cut the cake, she thought happily, although she
couldn’t remember doing so. Geri, the flower girl in a pastel dress, and
Angus, the ring bearer in a miniature tux, along with a knot of other
dressed-up children, charged through the sofa, back and forth, creating
pyrotechnic explosions of digital noise. They would have run through
Benjamin and Anne, too, had the adults allowed. Anne’s father came
through the wall with a bottle of champagne. He paused when he saw
Anne but turned to the other Anne and freshened her glass.

“Wait a minute!” shouted Benjamin, waving his arms above his
head. “I get it now. We’re the sims!” The guests all laughed, and he
laughed too. “I guess my sims always say that, don’t they?” The other

Benjamin nodded yes and sipped his champagne. “I just never expected
to be a sim,” Benjamin went on. This brought another round of laughter,
and he said sheepishly, “I guess my sims all say that, too.”

The other Benjamin said, “Now that we have the obligatory
epiphany out of the way,” and took a bow. The guests applauded.

Cathy, with Tom in tow, approached Anne. “Look what I caught,”
she said and showed Anne the forget-me-not and buttercup bouquet. “I
guess we know what that means.” Tom, intent on straightening his tie,
seemed not to hear. But Anne knew what it meant. It meant they’d
tossed the bouquet. All the silly little rituals that she had so looked forward
to.

“Good for you,” she said and offered her own clutch, which she
still held, for comparison. The real one was wilting and a little ragged
around the edges, with missing petals and sprigs, while hers was still
fresh and pristine and would remain so eternally. “Here,” she said,
“take mine, too, for double luck.” But when she tried to give Cathy the
bouquet, she couldn’t let go of it. She opened her hand and discovered
a seam where the clutch joined her palm. It was part of her. Funny, she
thought, I’m not afraid. Ever since she was little, Anne had feared that
some day she would suddenly realize she wasn’t herself anymore. It
was a dreadful notion that sometimes oppressed her for weeks: knowing
you weren’t yourself. But her sims didn’t seem to mind it. She had
about three dozen Annes in her album, from age twelve on up. Her
sims tended to be a morose lot, but they all agreed it wasn’t so bad, the
life of a sim, once you got over the initial shock. The first moments of
disorientation are the worst, they told her, and they made her promise
never to reset them back to default. Otherwise, they’d have to work
everything through from scratch. So Anne never reset her sims when
she shelved them. She might delete a sim outright for whatever reason,
but she never reset them, because you never knew when you’d wake up
one day a sim yourself. Like today.

The other Anne joined them. She was sagging a little. “Well,” she
said to Anne.

“Indeed!” replied Anne.

“Turn around,” said the other Anne, twirling her hand, “I want to
see.”

Anne was pleased to oblige. Then she said, “Your turn,” and the
other Anne modeled for her, and she was delighted how the gown
looked on her, though the goggles somewhat spoiled the effect. Maybe
this can work out
, she thought, I am enjoying myself so. “Let’s go see
us side-by-side,” she said, leading the way to the mirror on the wall.

The mirror was large, mounted high, and tilted forward so you saw
yourself as from above. But simulated mirrors cast no reflections, and
Anne was happily disappointed.

“Oh,” said Cathy, “Look at that.”

“Look at what?” said Anne.

“Grandma’s vase,” said the other Anne. On the mantel beneath
the mirror stood Anne’s most precious possession, a delicate vase cut
from pellucid blue crystal. Anne’s great-great-great-grandmother had
commissioned the Belgian master, Bollinger, the finest glass maker in
sixteenth-century Europe, to make it. Five hundred years later, it was as
perfect as the day it was cut.

“Indeed!” said Anne, for the sim vase seemed to radiate an inner
light. Through some trick or glitch of the simogram, it sparkled like a
lake under moonlight, and, seeing it, Anne felt incandescent.

After a while, the other Anne said, “Well?” Implicit in this question
was a whole standard set of questions that boiled down to—shall
I keep you or delete you now? For sometimes a sim didn’t take. Sometimes
a sim was cast while Anne was in a mood, and the sim suffered
irreconcilable guilt or unassuagable despondency and had to be mercifully
destroyed. It was better to do this immediately, or so all the Annes
had agreed.

And Anne understood the urgency, what with the reception still in
progress and the bride and groom, though frazzled, still wearing their
finery. They might do another casting if necessary. “I’ll be okay,” Anne
said. “In fact, if it’s always like this, I’ll be terrific.”

Anne, through the impenetrable goggles, studied her. “You sure?”

“Yes.”

“Sister,” said the other Anne. Anne addressed all her sims as “sister,”
and now Anne, herself, was being so addressed. “Sister,” said the
other Anne, “this has got to work out. I need you.”

“I know,” said Anne, “I’m your wedding day.”

“Yes, my wedding day.”

Across the room, the guests laughed and applauded. Benjamin—
both of him—was entertaining, as usual. He—the one in goggles—
motioned to them. The other Anne said, “We have to go. I’ll be back.”

Great-Uncle Karl, Nancy, Cathy and Tom, Aunt Jennifer, and the
rest, left through the wall. A polka could be heard playing on the other
side. Before leaving, the other Benjamin gathered the other Anne into
his arms and leaned her backward for a theatrical kiss. Their goggles
clacked. How happy I look, Anne told herself. This is the happiest day
of my life
.

Then the lights dimmed, and her thoughts shattered like glass.
Praise

Praise

“Marusek [has] the potential to make an indifferent audience care about [science fiction] again.”
The New York Times Book Review

“Marusek is one of the best-kept secrets of science fiction, a wild talent with a Gibson-grade imagination and marvelous prose, and a keen sense of human drama that makes it all go.”
–Cory Doctorow

“David Marusek, showing a potentially volatile synergy of technology and human foibles, is a writer who gives the impression that he’s been to the future, seen it work, and has come back to tell us all about it.”
Locus

“Superb . . . Marusek’s ‘shiny ideas’ sparkle.”
Publishers Weekly (starred review)

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