Childhood in a Needle

The syringe lay on the table, glistening in the fluorescent lights of the clinic. “You know what this is, right?” Langdon asked. The doctor was tired, bags under his red-rimmed eyes, shoulders tense from too many arguments with the directors and the review board and his patient.

“Yes, GMBh neural replasticizer,” Mallory answered flatly. He sat opposite Langdon, draped in a teal hospital down with his arms hanging loosely by his sides. His sunken gaze scanned the small room methodically, taking in the light green walls, the lights, the two metal chairs, the flimsy folding table and the syringe. Every thirteen seconds he would start again, from top left to bottom right in smooth raster sweeps. He had been doing it ever since he had been admitted to the clinic.

“This may be the answer to your, ah condition,” Langdon said. “But the treatment is experimental. It will erase your memories, your skills, your personality. There is a very real possibility that your mind will never be restored. We are entering uncharted territory, and while I do not mean to be mystical, your soul is at stake!”

The doctor's dramatics left Mallory unmoved. “Do you seriously believe I value any part of my existence? I am an empty vessel. Once, I was a scientist, but then theories stopped making sense. I had a wife; she left me. My friends are fading from memory, we no longer have anything in common. The replasticizers are my second chance.” His dead eyes met the doctor's. “This is what I want.”

Langdon sighed, “I knew you would say that. I just wanted to offer you one last chance. Let's get this over with.” He stood up and walked around the table. He folded Mallory's ear back, placed the wavering tip of the needle against his skin. Closing his eyes, he drove the syringe home and pressed the plunger, injecting the neural replasticizers directly into Mallory's brain.

Mallory tensed in his chair, shook his head as the needle was withdrawn. “Tastes blue.” He muttered. His fingers felt like sausages, swollen with fluid. He lifted his hand to his face, turned it around and around as he marveled at the geometry of his palm. He wanted to tell Langdon what he was feeling, but he could not figure out how words worked. The doctor's concerned face melted into meaningless planes of color. His head fell back, and he looked directly into the light as half-blind eyes struggled to make sense of the word. The corners of the room stretched to infinity, Mallory's self dissolving into a million half-articulate possibilities.


This is Fascinating


If the information here is correct, then the entire evolution of mammals was spurred by an infection by the ancestor of the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV), and thousands of inactivated copies of its genome persist. Infection with HIV might even cause production of these latent viruses. Its almost like HIV is a natural part of our evolution.

This leads me to the questions of :
  • Is it possible that the creation of HIV was spurred by recombination between the Simian Immunodeficiency Virus and a related endogenous retroviral fragment ?
  • Is the continued evolution of HIV accelerated by recombination with endogenous retroviral fragments ?


Sunny Days at the Sea

Langdon watched the sky through half-slitted eyelids. The sun was warm on his face, his back rested comfortably in the cool lower layer of sand. The beach he lay on was empty and clean, devoid of the holidaymakers and cigarette butts and children and beer bottles and seagulls that despoiled the other Los Angeles beaches. The roar of the surf built in his ear and a gleaming white plane raced overhead, so close that Langdon felt he could reach out and touch its pregnant fuselage.

“Airbus A380,” Langdon whispered, “Korean Air flight 387, Los Angeles-Tokyo.” He followed the huge plane as it climbed, disappearing into the glare over the ocean. The swept crosses of airlines soared across the harsh blue Californian sky, their passage marked by the puffy lines of contrails. For Langdon, the contrails graphed the intricate dance that was LAX. Each day thousands of planes took off and landed, disgorging hundreds of thousands of passengers. Their bags wound their way through the bowels of luggage system, reuniting at the baggage claims before disappearing into taxis and shuttles and the cars of friends. Thinking of it all made Langdon dizzy, and he closed his eyes, floating into a blood red universe where the sound of the ocean ocean, the planes, and his heartbeat blended into a unending music. Time passed, and he thought about the airport.

“Hey kid, get up, get out of here. This is a restricted area.” A shadow fell over him, the dark shape of an airport security guard. The guard was short, pudgy, sweating through his khaki uniform despite the sea breeze. Holstered on his hip way the plastic module of a taser, a gray plastic mating of a television remote and a gun. Langon stood, brushing sand from his smooth hairless body. Proudly, he walked over the hot sand to his bike, which lay sideways on the plant covered dunes that fronted the beach. Under the eye of the guard, he got on and peddled unsteadily away, merging into the streets of Westchester.


Ballardian Days

BALLARDIAN: (adj) 1. of James Graham Ballard (J.G. Ballard; born 1930), the British novelist, or his works. (2) resembling or suggestive of the conditions described in Ballard’s novels & stories, esp. dystopian modernity, bleak man-made landscapes & the psychological effects of technological, social or environmental developments.

JG Ballard is arguably the defining novelist of the 20th century; a man who uses the clades of machine life that we have spawned to expose the twisted psyches of a culture in a state of permanent culture shock, stressed to the edge of immanent collapse. Inspired by the horror of the atomic bomb, the inexorable logic of technological automatism, and the face of madness. Reading him, one understands how the oppressive weight of all the change the human race has experienced has transformed us into strange new entities.

His stories are profoundly unsettling, bleak wastelands of concrete and disconnected fragments of memory from narrators who are losing their minds, or have already lost them. Obsessive, clinical, and isolated, Ballard narrators use the scalpel of scientific norms to strip away the lies that cloak the bitter truths of our society.

In a word, he is fucking brilliant, a penetrating writer, and one of the greats. Two weird for straight fiction, too literary for science-fiction. Ballard is one of my greatest inspirations. Having recently read way too much JG Ballard, I've decided to do a series of shorts inspired by and as a tribute to the man.


Ballardian Short 1

The domes of the city rose from the desert, the steel worn to a dull luster by the endless scouring wind. Dust piled against the western curves, long sand dune arcs spilling off like ripples from a boulder placed in a stream. In the years since their construction, the domes had grown into the desert, their smoothed machined curves forming a organo-mechanic counterpart to the jagged basalt monoliths that marked the graves of ancient volcanoes.

Once, the city had been home to thousands, a thriving community of monastic scientists. Now, only Winston was left. He sat in a small pool of blue light in the empty darkness of the gathering hall, watching the feed from one of the tethered balloon cameras. The image swung with the wind, now facing north, now west, twisting with the cable. The cameras used to have servos, but the dust had gotten into the gears, and when he had tried to follow a dot on the horizon the camera had seized and frozen in place, becoming a victim of the wind. Winston was looking for Mallory. The other man had left the dome three days ago, saying that he was going to watch the sunrise.

That was one of the ways it happened, wandering off into the desert. Some of the scientists had fallen into silent reveries, others had leaped from the high catwalks or entombed themselves in hidden storage rooms. Many fled, terrified of the thing they couldn't understand. Their numbers had dwindled, the last few inhabitants scrubbing blood from the floor and moving their lost companions into the dry storage rooms. Some future explorer might find the city on day, find the rows of mummified seekers of truth next to the racks of canned fruit and soy protein cakes.

Winston was the last one left, Mallory was never coming back. Slowly, Winston eased his shrunken frame from the floor. He shambled through the complex, throwing open the doors. Where men had pondered the universe, lizards would scuttle from hole in the sideboards. Small oases would grow beneath dripping pipes as the automated systems sucked water from the air until they failed centuries from now. The endless dust would sweep in, and eventually the city would become one with the desert, one with infinity.

His final task done, Winston climbed the stairs to the top of the main dome. He stood on the observation platform, gripping the rail as he leaned into the wind. Mallory had been a fool. You could see the sunrise perfectly well from here.