Thursday, April 21, 2011

Trojan Horse, by Michael Swanwick

Michael Swanwick really seemed to dominate the SF awards for awhile, at least in nominations.  But that may be because I'm seeing it through the lens of Free SF Online, and his stories are more available as free downloads.  Be that as it may, Trojan Horse is a Nebula nominee for 1984, and a really good example of what a speculative fiction story can be.  In this future we have learned to program our minds like our computers, and can change our abilities and attitudes with "wetware" adjustment (cyberpunk language just coming into prominence).  Elin has had an accident that scrambled her wetware while it was in a programmed state, effectively erasing her personality.  But personalities are recorded like any other wetware, so she gets a new one.  Personal identity issues abound and are explored, and people have self-referential access to what their mental states might be when not influenced by programming.  The focus here is an experiment giving users control over their own metaprogramming, which turns them into God.  One can imagine this gets tangled.

Of course, there are more mundane ways to get a new personality, like with amnesia or electroshock therapy (well described in Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance).  But this is a more accessible read.  3 stars, and fun.

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