In Arc 1.3: Lavie Tidhar’s Choosing Faces

30 Sep

Israeli-born British writer Lavie Tidhar has been nominated for a BSFA, British Fantasy, Campbell, Sidewise, World Fantasy and Sturgeon Awards. He is the author of Osama, and of the Bookman Histories trilogy, as well as numerous short stories and several novellas.

For Arc 1.3 we asked Lavie – arguably the most talked about SF discovery of the decade – to write us something wild: he embraced our challenge with savage glee. Here’s an extract to whet your appetite.


“It’s not like in the movies,” I said. Thinking of the East European factory we busted, several years back. They had a dormitory-full of product – young Sylvesters, Bruces, Jean-Claudes, imperfect copies, slack-jawed and hollow eyed, of a line that was never all that popular after its brief heyday. It was an abandoned factory building far from habitation. The gang that ran it had filming equipment. They went through the copies like tissues, sometimes wasting four or five on a single shoot. Bruce on Jean-Claude, Sylvester on Sylvester on Sylvester, bloodsport gangbangs with razor blades. When we took them down, the ring operators came quietly, even smirking. Worst they’d get was, what, five to ten? With time off for good behaviour. We destroyed the copies. They were lined inside, waiting. Only one tried anything, with a wordless cry he kicked up, a Jean-Claude and agile with it, but you could tell he knew it was no use even before I shot him.

The rest merely stood there. There is something almost eerie about copies. The code never comes out quite right. They’re cheap, mass-produced in labs all over. These days any kid with a gene kit and a bathtub can grow his own Elvis. We went past them and shot each one in the head. It’s the best way. Then we brought in the flamethrowers and burned the place down.

None of which I told her when she asked. I just smiled. A part of me wondered if she, too, was a copy. You can’t always tell, and it’s an occupational hazard. The other part of me didn’t care. I asked her if she’d like to dance and she said yes, and we swayed there, in that glass bowl, with the snow like a benediction falling outside.

Her name was Pam and she was a copy artist, which made me uncomfortable. Her workspace was filled with computers and growing vats and body parts emerging half-formed out of a green-grey goo.

“Aren’t they beautiful?” she said. “I love the sense of copies as people, or as layers of history you can just reach a hand and, literally, touch. Hurt. Make love to.”

“What do you do when they’re,” I said, and stopped. “When they’re finished?” I said.

“If they become aware, you mean?”

“Yes.”

“Some never do, you know. My success rate is still only thirty percent. The ones that don’t make it I take apart, recycle.” She showed me a half-finished copy, Marilyn Monroe cross-hatched into Osama bin Laden. Shark fins stuck out of the living corpse’s arms and torso.

We made love on her unmade bed, with the Marilyn/Osama hybrid watching us silently where it hung on a hook. In the night I was aware of it blinking wet eyes, staring at us in the dark.

Read more in Arc 1.3, a digital quarterly about the future, made for e-readers, tablets, phones and computer screens; also available in a collectible print edition. Visit http://www.arcfinity.org for details.

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