Last week I talked about the letter game and how it started my story. This week, I’d like to give you an unedited preview of that first letter I sent, which sparked all the things that led me to create this unique world of cyberpunk weirdness.
Please note, there are mistakes in this letter. I’m choosing to leave them because this is the actual letter I sent to my pen pal.
A little background: we decided that my character would be an ambitious hacker nurse who has driven herself so hard that she hates her daily routine, and so has decided to enroll in a pen pal program just to have a social life. She thinks the pen pal program is probably fake, with letters generated by an AI, but goes along with it anyway. (Where the replies come from is actually much weirder, but that was my pen pal’s side of the story so I won’t go into it.) I decided to start my novel years later, after she has written to this pen pal program for quite some time, had adventures, and grown up a bit. So when you read the actual book, you’ll be encountering a much older Alexia.
Behold the first letter, in its unedited state.
Sunday, January 7, 2596
Salisbury, Smallbone:Realm 3, Earth
Dear unknown pen pal,
I am not a lonely person. Everything I’ve heard about your program seems to indicate that you are a tool for lonely people to help them feel some sort of companionship. Please do me the courtesy of believing that I am perfectly happy in my current fellowships. I’m not even sure why I feel like I need to explain this. It’s just, I’m afraid I’ll get some kind of letter back from you filled with psych-net links and subliminal hacks to my neural implant meant to make me feel more fulfilled.
I’m only writing to you because of an article that claims successful people give themselves something to look forward to at the end of the day, and the bitty-box-of-the-month club is too expensive. Also time consuming. I hear the usual edgezones and real-time deep reality plays will consume my soul to the point where I don’t want to do anything else. They sound amazing. But I don’t have that kind of time. You are just the diversion I need and will never be captivating enough to get in the way of my work. Sorry, but I think it’s important to be honest.
You’ll understand why my work is so important when I say that I’m the youngest stitcher at work they’ve ever had. Just in my hospital. Not in the world, obviously. But hopefully I won’t be a stitcher for long. They can’t keep patients coming in fast enough to keep me busy. I’ve only been working there for six months and already I’ve worked with more variety of cases than some of the stitchers who have been there for three years. Mostly it’s because none of the other nurses want to use the virus cleanser, so I get all the difficult cases. That’s ok with me. I need all the experience I can get.
So what about you? I mean, I know you’re probably some artificial intelligence, (or a person pretending to be an AI,) but that doesn’t mean you don’t have aspirations or passions. All AIs were created by humans so we can’t help but put ourselves into them. So you’re probably more sentient than some of my co-workers. Especially after a double shift.
What do you do when you’re not answering letters? Do you have family?
I live with my mother and it’s not what it sounds like. I’m not late to leave the nest or anything. She needs a lot of care, and my father is gone. If you’ve heard of the Neural Digression virus, you know what I mean. ND isn’t exactly deadly. Just debilitating. Her entire neural plant is almost gone now, so it’s impossible for her to keep up with such a slow interface. I used to think this wouldn’t be such a big deal, but trust me, it is. It’s amazing the things she doesn’t know, and I have to dumb down my language just so she can understand me. Being cut off from the marketplace of ideas and the great voices of our time really puts you out of touch. It’s terrible, and I feel so sorry for her. Even her eyes look like they are dull and unhappy because she is confused about her world. The other day I found her trying to login directly to a part of the net she’s never been to before, instead of being directed by one of the chaperone links. One of these days she’s going to get herself hurt.
Anyways, that’s about all I can think of to write before bed. Um, in case you are incapable of experiencing a good day, I will wish you a happy consciousness and good interfacing.
Well, that was a trip down memory lane and a little bit cringe-worthy. But despite the all-too-common feeling of looking back at old writing and thinking of all the ways it is so bad, Alexia’s story is still vibrant and alive in my head. I can’t wait to share it with the world. Hopefully soon. I’m still working on edits.