What will result from our rising avatarization? A rambling speculative fiction account.
|It was a balmy night in the jungles of Slaughterland Four. Warm and rather stingy, with the pallor of the twin moons making everything a silken glow. I rustled my petticoat and took out a handkerchief to wipe away some of the muck and stains and troll blood. A quick sip of milk lightened my spirits and replenished my strength.
'wb dear', uttered Katt, his wolfish grin complimenting his beefy, inhuman frame. I glanced around.
'Gone for the night.' Katt observed ruefully. 'I've been searching for another healer, no luck.'
I sighed, blood stains do not easily go from a petticoat. I have to get the Petticoat of Dragonhide Resolve, I decided. 'At this hour I doubt we'd get one, I guess we'll have to kill the Trollard tomorrow.'
'If he doesn't get us first,' Katt responded. 'The blood vendetta is a very OP mechanic, given time.' He light a cigarette, smoked it. 'What now?'
I frowned at the cigar.
He smiled. 'You can decurse the bad effects, right?' I nodded, sighed, and did so; waving my parasol in an arc, which sparked the needed magical incanation. 'I won't always be there, Katt. You should stop.'
'It's my wolf half. We're less inhbitied, we have more powerful... drives.' He grinned savagely. Yes, I remembered. We'd come across a village of bandits once. I remembered the men... I remembered the women. And those little girls, with their wide, incurious eyes, their blank expressions, made rosy red with blood...
He said it was for the stat bonus; that werewolves attack power was strengthened through vile actions. Perhaps, but I knew better - and why would one chose the werewolf, anyway? I clutched my embroidered book, and glancing at the title, and remembered.
'I've been reading,' I said, showing him the title. 'The Androidization of Man', it read. By Steve Koppel. 'He argues that the avatar world should be more properly considered the world of androids.'
'That's nonsense Constance,' Katt replied, chortling at his own witticism. 'Avatars aren't robots. They're computer generations, synth -'
'I know,' I interrupted. 'But he doesn't mean it like that. He means android in the classical Greek sense of the word, that the word means manlike. And he doesn't mean the avatars - he means us. We're becoming fake men.'
'How reactionary,' Katt observed. 'Men, fake men, the androidization of MAN? You should be offended, Countess, that's sexist.'
I smiled primly. 'Perhaps a little,' I said, 'but anyway he wouldn't consider me a woman.' The werewolf frowned, uncomprehending. 'My RL body, it's male.'
'What does that have to do with it? It's not like my RL body is a were -'
'Precisely. Koppel is theorizing that since the bodies for all among the technologically advanced serve as little more than vessels to be plugged in to the internet, we are no longer truly real. Like your smoking habit, IRL -'
'There's no decursive for smoking in the real world, Countess. And a fine Xyraxian cigar? Experts agree even the best Cubans can't compare to these, and all I have to do to get one of these babies is slaughter a Titan Lord. Besides, so what? The emotional and psychological responses we give to our surroundings are completely genuine. This isn't like the nascent age of avatarization, which I'm sure old fogies like Koppel are still stuck in, struggling to understand the revolution of the fifties in all their glory. All simulation is possible, even warmth, human love.'
'Do we know that for certain, Katt?'
'What do you mean?'
'Because that's the point. Of the book. We've never known these supposedly real things that the elderly and less advanced cling to, the need to operate IRL as more than just a contrivance. The warmth of avatars is all we've ever known.'
'Or it could be more real. When reality's made by autofac we can improve on it. Forget intelligent design, this is a world of compassionate design. Not from compassion, but in recognition that this is needed - warmth, empathy, love. That's what sells. That and cigars like these. If the cigars are better, why can't the emotions be purer too? Digitization unburdened of any inconveinently real flaws.'
'You could write a book, you know.'
'Why bother? Nobody reads, except Koppel and his gang, all angry at something they don't just quite grasp.' He saw my expression and laughed animalistically. 'Oh yes dear, you too. But who goes for the Victorian look? Parasols and petticoats, oh my. The upkeep must be incredibly time consuming.'
'And rewarding', I reminded him. 'I do like looking my best for creature hunting.'
'Darling, you're glorious. But all a werewolf needs is a quick bath.' He bared his fangs. 'If that.'
A silence. I wondered what the real tropics of Earth felt like; whether the Amazon jungle was ever as moist and balmy as Slaughterland Four. Katt sighed, he had tried humour but he noticed I was still withdrawn, sullen. Was I a little annoying? Probably. I didn't make friends easily, or well. 'You're dreadfully mellow this evening, my dear. Is it about Yandeline?'
'Well - no. I mean, yes. Yes,' I said slowly. 'That must be it. They always leave me, you know, as soon as they're ready to walk, those healers. Maybe Ganmel was lying, maybe he's going too.'
Katt shrugged. 'Ganmel's a good guy.'
'They're always good guys, Katt.' I said.
He nodded. 'That they are.'
'I'd still like to kill something, though. To toughen up, get some experience, but mostly -'
'Yeah. Well, there are a couple of straggler trolls down near the woodlands, ever since Ex Cylum slew the Gan'narth chief', I observed. 'Elderly and children, some remnants of the Narth clan. I hear it's a good grinding spot, they put up little resistance.'
'Woof. I'm game.'