FOREVER ALONE DRONE: Nancy Kress spins a cautionary tale

19 Dec

We’re delighted to welcome the multi-award-winning science fiction writer Nancy Kress to the pages of Arc, with a wry tale of love and infidelity.

In We can do this, human weakness proves more than a match for new technology, as Kress’s hero Ethan goes in pursuit of polygamy: “South Sea Islanders, renegade Mormons, Old Testament patriarchs – anything that would legitimise having more than one wife. A behavioural system instantly and conveniently superimposed on late 21st-century New York, like those VR eye glasses that added another dimension to the ordinary.”

Sadly, he isn’t going to get it. 

Here’s a short extract:

“Here we are,” Ethan said, helping Lissa from the elevator to a chair in the living room. She was still weak.

“Wow,” she said.

Maureen’s money, he wanted to say, but of course he didn’t. Glass walls looked down thirty-seven floors to New York harbor, dotted with ships. The floor was covered with antique Aubusson, the walls programmed with softly sliding neutral colours. Maureen liked glass furniture, and its swooping curves balanced the square, bright cushions that adjusted themselves to the sitter’s body. When Ethan and Lissa had married, he’d been finishing his BA and they’d lived in a bare, one-bedroom apartment near the college. They’d lain in bed guessing at the wallpaper pattern under the layers of grime: “Butterflies!” “Filoviruses!” “Dog turds, done tastefully in paisley!”

Ethan brought her a cup of tea; she’d never been a coffee drinker. “Shouldn’t you eat something?”

“Yes. The hospital sent those packets, some super-nutritious glop.”

“I’ll fix one for you!”

He did, and she nibbled at it in companionable silence. Just as she finished, Maureen came in. Ethan stood, the absurdity of the tableau washing over him like a rip tide. My wife, meet my wife… But the law was very clear on this point. Maureen was his wife, Lissa only his former wife.

“Hello,” Maureen said, holding out her hand. “I’m Maureen.”

Lissa looked up at her from the depths of the wing chair and blushed.

Ethan felt his heart split along its seam. She was so young to face such complexity, such uncertainty and loss! Her face mottled an ugly maroon and she bit her lip.

Maureen, who was not young, took over. “Lissa, I know this is an odd situation. But we can all get through it, and Ethan and I are so glad for your returned health and life. It’s such a miracle.”

Kindness, generosity, and a speech obviously rehearsed, although Maureen, with a litigator’s skill, had managed to make it sound spontaneous. So why did Lissa blush even more, and why did Ethan suddenly resent his wife?

You can read We can do this in full in Arc 1.4: Forever Alone Drone, out now,

for iPads and iPhones

for Android devices, Windows and Mac computers

as a collectible print edition

and for Kindle

And if you would like to write for Arc, check out our new competition.

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